9 things you need to know about how the UK is using smartphones and tablets

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9 things you need to know about how the UK is using smartphones and tablets

Mobile devices are rapidly becoming central to the way people consume media in the UK, driven by widespread adoption of smartphones and rapidly building enthusiasm for tablets. Quite how mobile the UK has become is clear from Ofcom's new Communications Market Report 2013 (PDF)

1. Smartphones are becoming ubiquitous

Just over half of UK adults now own a smartphone, and 49 percent say they use a mobile to connect to the web. For a quarter of those who own a smartphone, that device is the most important way of accessing the internet.  

2. People are very attached to their mobiles

Of those surveyed, 20 percent said using their mobile was the media activity they would most miss if it were taken away. That's less than the 43 percent who say TV, but a hell of a lot more than the four percent who say they would miss newspapers and magazines the most. 

Most missed media activity Ofcom

3. Tablets are becoming mainstream fast

The number of households with a tablet computer rose to 24  percent in Q1 2013, up from 11 percent a year earlier. Nine percent of households have more than one tablet.

4. Tablet owners use their devices a lot.

People who use their tablet at least weekly spend an average of one hour 45 minutes a day. Two-thirds of tablet owners use their device on a daily basis. 

5. The consumers of tomorrow will be even more mobile 

Among 16 to 24 year olds, the proportion who have a smartphone is now 77 percent - more than 50 percent higher than the population as a whole. Young people are also significantly more likely than other age groups to use a mobile rather than a desktop for social networking, micro-blogging (ie Twitter) and instant messaging. Tablet usage, previously concentrated among the wealthier over 45s is becoming more widespread in the 25 to 34 year old age category and 41 percent of under 18s in households with a tablet use it at least once a day. 

Ofcom frequency of tablet children

6. People like watching TV-style news on their tablets

Of tablet owners, 32 percent say they watch UK and international news, a further 27 percent watch sports news and 19 percent watch regional or local news. That suggests tablet users could be a valuable market for the new local TV stations.

7. Apple is still tablet king

The iPad was the chosen device for 52 percent of tablet owners. Other brands are getting a look in, but Ofcom says many respondents talked of feeling locked in to a brand by owning a number of devices, and most people replaced their tablet with one made by the same manufacturer. 

Ofcom claimed tablet ownership

8. Tablets and mobiles are being used alongside TV

A quarter of adults say they access media about a programme while they are watching it, what Ofcom calls "meshing". Almost half say they access unrelated media while watching TV, which Ofcom has dubbed "stacking". 

9. But specially designed second-screen services haven't caught on yet.

Most meshing activity is texts or calls. Just 12 percent of people surveyed have looked for information about a programme online while watching and just 11 percent have talked about it on social media. And deliberately created second screen experiences of the kind we recently spoke to Anthony Rose about are even less popular. Just three percent say they have participated in a programme via an app. 


The switch to accessing content via mobile devices is already having a huge impact on the media business. But while these stats show quite how mobile the UK is now, there's also clearly a long way to go. 

There are encouraging signs for publishers among the stats. There is a mobile audience consuming content. However, publishers are competing with a lot of other mobile activities for consumer attention and time. They need to get their mobile products right to avoid losing that audience. 



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