The key takeaway from the 2015 Communications Market Report is that the UK is now a mobile society.

While the 'year of mobile' has been promised since the inaugural iPhone, it seems 2014 was finally the year that mobile reached an inflection point, becoming the most important device for individuals to connect to the internet. 

As we covered yesterday in our general summary of the Ofcom report, in the space of two years, smartphones have become the second most missed device for all adults.

In 2013, 43% of adults said they would miss the TV most, compared to just 20% who chose the mobile phone, a difference of 23 percentage points. Two years later, in 2015 that difference stands at just five percentage points.

When broken down by age, smartphones would be most missed by 16-24 year olds, at 59%, compared to just 2% of those aged 75+.

App usage 

On average, smartphone users who have downloaded apps to their phone have 17 apps. Younger smartphone users with apps have an average of 19, compared to 13.5 for those aged 55+.

Men are more likely than women to have a greater number of apps on their phones (19 vs. 15.3 for women).

As would be expected, social networking and games feature highly for people aged 16-24, but what is interesting is the sort of services they use: 45% say they have downloaded a banking app, and 43% say they have downloaded a shopping app.

This is a clear indication that younger audiences expect services to be mobile and marketers should be responding in kind.

4G increases mobile use

One significant feature of 2014 was the rapid uptake of 4G.

At the start of the year 15% of total subscriptions were 4G, by the end of the year it nearly doubled to 28%, and in 2015 it is expected to be higher yet again.

It is worth noting that not every 4G subscriber necessarily has a 4G capable phone, so the number of people actually using 4G services may be smaller than indicated.

However many people use 4G services, what is clear is that 4G is significant in how it changes smartphone usage. 4G users are typically much more intensive users, and much more attached to their devices. 62% of 4G users say they can’t live without their smartphone device, compared to 42% of smartphone owners without 4G access.

4G users are also more likely to be able to live without other devices than smartphone owners without 4G access, indicating that they use their devices for a wide range of purposes.

4G users carry out online activities on their devices much more than those without 4G access. 55% of 4G users say they use their devices to make online purchases and to do online banking, against 35% and 33% of users without 4G, respectively.

There is significant uplift in data usage when an individual adopts 4G.

Key digital behaviours such as web browsing, streaming audio and visual content and social media usage all increase on 4G when compared to using 3G. 

Hooked on our devices

Perhaps the clearest indication of how important mobile is to us, is how ‘hooked’ we say we are to our devices.

Almost half of smartphone users (48%) claim high levels of attachment (7 or higher), which equates to 29% of all adults. This declines with age: three-fifths (61%) of smartphone users aged 16-24 claim they are ‘hooked’ on their mobile, compared to a third (32%) of those aged 55+.

The Ofcom Report gives the clearest indication that mobile is the primary digital device, and the trend becomes more pronounced the younger the audience.

The research also highlights how 4G is changing mobile usage, putting mobile use in line with more mature digital devices. The increase of mobile web browsing is of particular interest, as apps have tended to dominate time spent on mobile since the App Store was opened up to third-party apps.

Could we be seeing a resurgence of the mobile web with 4G? Whether through the mobile web or apps, the demand for services through mobile has never been greater, and is only set to increase. 

For lots more up-to-date statistics…                                           

Download Econsultancy’s Internet Statistics Compendium, a collection of the most recent statistics and market data publicly available on online marketing, ecommerce, the internet and related digital media.

It’s updated monthly and covers 11 different topics from advertising, content, customer experience, mobile, ecommerce and social.

James Ellis

Published 11 August, 2015 by James Ellis

James Ellis is a Research Analyst at Econsultancy. You can connect with him on LinkedIn

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