LONDON: A fifth of consumers in the UK now own a tablet, with smartphone penetration having reached almost three times that level, a study has revealed.

The Mobile Operators Association, the trade body, and YouGov, the polling group, surveyed 2,504 people, and found that 58% owned smartphones, while 20% possessed a tablet.

Upon comparing these results with previous research conducted by Ofcom, the communications industry regulator, the report suggested smartphone uptake has grown by nearly 50% year on year.

Such a total hit 80% when discussing tablets, a sector where competition between companies like Apple, Amazon and Google is rising rapidly.

"The speed with which people are adopting this new technology has been phenomenal," said John Cooke, executive director of the Mobile Operators Association.

"Even more important than the figures on ownership is the way these devices are changing consumer behaviour. People are increasingly choosing to use mobile devices to access the internet, even when they have a fixed connection available."

Some 43% of mobile phone users sent and received email using these gadgets, and 40% visited social networks like Facebook and Twitter in the same fashion.

Reflecting this trend, the ability to stay in contact with friends and family was regarded as the main benefit of mobile phones, the study found.

Other popular activities included utilising maps and navigation tools, mentioned by 28% of mobile users, alongside checking bus, train and flight times.

Mcommerce remains rather more niche at present, with 13% the panel having bought goods and services via a mobile phone, an amount reaching 10% for tablets.

Data sourced from Mobile Operators Association; additional content by Warc staff