People in the UK are spending half as much time on their landlines, but are gobbling up almost 10 times more mobile data as six years ago, new research from Ofcom shows.

And the telecom watchdog pointed out that, with landline use continuing to plummet and smartphone ownership increasing, the need to dial, or even remember phone numbers, could soon be consigned to history.

In 2012, people made a total of 103 billion minutes of landline calls. But during 2017 that figure declined to just 54 billion.

During the same period, calls on mobiles went up from 132.1 billion to 148.6 billion minutes – and the average mobile data use rose from 0.2 gigabytes to 1.0 gigabytes per person.

Ofcom said its research showed a clear generational divide over the use of phones: younger people strongly tend to prefer messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, over using a phone to speak to someone.

An 18-year-old from Aberdeen told researchers they found actually calling a person “a bit daunting”.

“It’s much easier and quicker to WhatsApp my friends. If I have to call a company, I’ll always try to use webchat if it’s available.”

Older generations, though, tend to prefer to speak to another person. “I prefer to speak to a person. You can get a better understanding,” one 68-year-old told researchers.

For all age groups, when they do make calls, it usually involves just clicking on a name, as numbers are generally stored on people’s devices, removing the need to either remember numbers or write them down.

And changes in technology are set to radically change how we use phone numbers, according to Ofcom, with more calls made using broadband, rather than traditional phone lines; nor do broadband-based calls require area codes as the current phone network does.

Researchers asked how people felt about this and the fact that codes would no longer have any geographic meaning.

Some younger people liked the idea of having a number that didn’t need to change, of having a number “for life”, Ofcom said. They saw a number as part of a person’s identity. Older people, though, strongly disliked the disappearance of area codes being associated with geographic locations.

Sourced from Ofcom; additional content by WARC staff