LONDON: Smartphones began to take off in the UK in 2008 and, a decade on, a new official study has revealed the extent to which British consumers now depend on their mobile devices and access to the internet.

According to Ofcom, the media regulator, just 17% of Britons owned a smartphone in 2008, but that has now reached 78%, rising to almost all (95%) of young consumers aged 16 to 24.

Ofcom’s annual Communications Market Report, which it describes as a study into how technology has “revolutionised our lives within ten years”, also revealed that British consumers now check their smartphones every 12 minutes on average.

Two in five adults (40%) look at their phone within five minutes of waking up, climbing to 65% of those aged under 35, while 37% of adults check their phones five minutes before going to bed, rising to 60% of under-35s.

Overall, one in five adults (19%) say they spend more than 40 hours a week online, up from 5% just over ten years ago, while two-thirds of adults (64%) say the internet is an “essential” part of their life.

The proportion of people accessing the internet via their mobile has increased from 20% in 2008 to 72% in 2018, while the average amount of time spent online on a smartphone is now 2 hours 28 minutes a day, rising to 3 hours 14 minutes among 18-24s.

In addition, 72% of adults say their smartphone is their most important device for accessing the internet, 71% say they never turn off their phone, while 78% say they could not live without it. And interestingly, Ofcom found that, for the first time this year, women now spend more time online than men.

“Over the last decade, people’s lives have been transformed by the rise of the smartphone, together with better access to the internet and new services,” said Ian Macrae, Ofcom’s director of market intelligence.

“Whether it’s working flexibly, keeping up with current affairs or shopping online, we can do more on the move than ever before,” he added. “But while people appreciate their smartphone as their constant companion, some are finding themselves feeling overloaded when online, or frustrated when they’re not.”

For example, around a third of people say they feel either cut off (34%) or lost (29%) without the internet, if they can’t get online, while 17% say they find the situation stressful.

Another negative sentiment is that 15% of people agree that being online makes them feel they are always at work, while more than half (54%) acknowledge that connected devices interrupt face-to-face conversations with friends and family. More than two in five (43%) also admit to spending too much time online.

Sourced from Ofcom; additional content by WARC staff