LONDON: Consumers have yet to learn how to use smartphones in a manner that chimes with both their own life and that of others, according to a new study which observes that the UK user base is levelling off even as innovation at device and network levels continues at a "relentless" pace.

The Mobile Consumer Survey: UK Cut from consulting firm Deloitte, polled 4,000 UK consumers aged 18-75 as part of a global study, and reported that consumers need to identify "how to use their devices in a balanced way, at a level that suits them, their other halves and colleagues".

Younger age groups are the most enthusiastic users of smartphones, with one third reporting that they use their devices 'always' or 'very often' when meeting friends, shopping or watching television.

And one third of all 18–24 year olds admitted that their excessive use of smartphones had caused disagreements with their partner; the proportion was the same for 35-44 year olds, rising to 38% among 25-34 year olds, an age group more likely to have young children.

The study observed that formal and informal rules are emerging to direct behaviour with regard to phone usage. It's already discouraged in cinema and theatres, for example, while friends in a pub might decide that the first person to use their device has to buy the next round; apps are also available to curtail usage.

People's attachment to their phones has been documented by many surveys, and Deloitte reported that this extends into sleeping hours as well.

A quarter of owners checked them last thing before sleeping, while one third of owners looked at their phone within five minutes of waking. And one third said they checked them during the night as well, rising to half of 18-24 year olds.

Usually this was just to ascertain the time but between 8% and 11% were also taking the opportunity to check for instant messages, social media notifications and email, with around half of those then responding, activity which can only adversely affect sleep quality.

The search for balance may not become any easier, however, as technological development proceeds apace and connection speeds become ever faster, unlocking new applications.

Smartphones "have rapidly become the all-in-one device in people's pockets. That will not likely change for many years," the study said.

Data sourced from Deloitte; additional content by Warc staff