Smartphone usage up again, Ofcom report reveals

Earlier this week, we learned that texting is in and phoning is out, according to Ofcom’s annual communications market report. This rings true even if I just take my own household’s use into account.

The statistics I found really interesting in the report though were those on smartphones. As the owner of not one but two smartphones, I wasn’t surprised that 39% of adults now own one – up 12% on just two years ago. But what did surprise me is that for 42% of these people, the smartphone is their most important device for accessing the internet.

This is a huge increase on previous years, and will have a massive impact on all of us working in the digital arena. I blogged a couple of weeks ago on our latest research symposium, and the difficulties we’re having in defining people as offline or online. Smartphone use adds a whole new element to the debate – if someone only has a smartphone will they be able to access all of the tools that a truly online citizen can? Will they, for example, be able to claim Universal Credit with just an iPhone – I for one know just how fiddly even booking cinema tickets can be on these small screens.

What the report does suggest is that we may be heading towards different tiers of internet usage, with the multi-deviced, always connected 21st century consumers at the top, and those who aren’t connected at all at the bottom – with the divide between the two widening even further. Measuring and commenting on our behaviour – and even devising new words like “turfing” to describe it – only highlights how much those without skills are missing out, and how far away we are from being a fully digital nation. And this isn’t a problem that even the cheapest of tablets can solve. Which means that I will continue to shout from the rooftops – and talk to anyone who will listen – about the importance of investing in supporting people by giving them a helping hand from a patient local person.

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