Gen Y’s propensity toward text messaging and social networking on mobile devices is causing traditional voice phone calls to decline for the first time ever.
Text-based communications are now surpassing phone calls or face to face meetings as the most frequent ways of keeping in touch for UK adults, claims a new Ofcom report.
According to Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2012, UK consumers are now sending 50 text messages per week – more than double what it was four years ago. Over 150 billion text messages sent in 2011. UK consumers now spend ninety minutes per week on social networks, sending email or using a mobile device to access the internet.
Much of this change is being led by Generation Y, as 96% of 16-24s are using some form of text based communication daily to communicate, with 90% using texts (SMS or OTT services such as iMessage and Whatsapp) and nearly three quarters (73%) using social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter.
Only 67% of Gen Y make mobile phone calls on a daily basis, with only 63% talking face to face – despite a professed preference for these methods of communication.
For the first time, ever the overall time spent talking on the phone fell – by 5% in 2011. This reflects a 10% fall in the volume of calls from landlines, and a fall of 1% in the volume of mobile calls.
"Our research reveals that in just a few short years, new technology has fundamentally changed the way that we communicate. Talking face to face or on the phone are no longer the most common ways for us to interact with each other," said James Thickett, Ofcom’s Director of Research.
"In their place, newer forms of communications are emerging which don’t require us to talk to each other – especially among younger age groups. This trend is set to continue as technology advances and we move further into the digital age."
Ofcom’s research shows that 39% of adults now own a smartphone, up 12% on 2010. Other outlets think this may be as high as 50%.
UK consumers are some of the biggest mobile online users on the planet, and half of smartphone users claim to use their phone in some way when out shopping.
This includes taking photos of products (31%), making online price comparisons (25%), scanning bar codes to get more product information (21%), reading product reviews online (19%) and researching product features (19%).
Smart phones are rapidly becoming a first choice portal to web usage, with 42% now claiming it is ‘the most important device for accessing the internet’, with over four in ten (42%) regularly using social networking sites and half (51%) using e-mail on their mobiles.
Ofcom’s continued research also suggests that smartphones are leading to a substitution between devices. Owners say they are using PC and laptops less for a range of activities since getting a smartphone, including watching video clips (51%) and sending messages (47%).
Overall, the time spent using the internet on mobile devices is up by 25% year on year, with the overall volume of mobile data consumed doubling in the 18 months to January 2012.
This boom in smartphone and tablet ownership has seen an exponential growth in the use of data services, which has put strain on the telcos not just logistically but financially. Many of the world’s telcos have been relying on high margin, low cost services such as voice calling and text messaging. The growth of data services has seen a rush to upgrade as the UK’s creaking mobile infrastructure struggles to handle the bandwidth required.
UK households now own on average three different types of internet-enabled device – such as a laptop, smartphone, tablet or internet-enabled games console. 15% of households now own six or more devices.
The UK is also now seeing a rise in the ownership of multiple tablets. Overall, tablet ownership has risen rapidly from 2% of UK households in Q1 2011 to 11% in Q1 2012. This growth looks set to continue with 17% of households planning to buy a tablet in the next year.
Interestingly, 37% of tablet owners say that they browse the internet more than they did before owning a tablet. Entertainment is still the most popular use for a tablet, but they are also used frequently for checking e-mail 63%, social networking (46%). A quarter of those surveyed said they spend more time social networking than they did previously.
Despite their portability, 90% of tablet usage is at home.
10% of UK adults now have an e-reader, with 41% of owners claiming to read more since buying the device. However, 62% of people said they read less paper-based material since owning an e-reader, paperbacks were down 60%, magazines down 10% and newspapers were down 8%.