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Calls down, texts and smartphones up – how Britain now communicates

A new report from the communications watchdog Ofcom has lifted the lid on the way we use technology in the UK today. Here are 10 of the best bits to know…

Britain is still a nation of TV addicts

UK viewers watch on average four hours of television a day but a third now use their internet to tune in on-demand using catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer. Half of those with a Smart TV use it for this purpose with a third of TVs sold in 2011 above 43 inches. In 2001, that was just one per cent.

Five per cent of homes now have a Smart TV but while half say they did not buy one to surf the web, nearly seven in 10 admitted they did so on it once it was in their living room.

Video hasn’t killed the Radio star

Radio listening has increased by 24 minutes a week since 2010 with people tuning in on average for 22.5 hours. But despite more than four in 10 adults owning a DAB radio, listening to the airwaves among 15-24 year olds is down by a fifth since the turn of the century.

The Web has continued to grow

Eight in 10 people across Britain had access to the internet in the first three months of 2012 but year-on-year growth was just 1.6% suggesting those who want to be online, are now online. The average time spent surfing was 23.5 hours per month in 2011.

Social Networks get a boost

Half of all British adults use social networking sites. A whopping two thirds of web users have accessed Facebook and this social network is fast becoming the gateway to the rest of the internet. It sends almost a quarter of all referred traffic to YouTube, 23.7%, while 32.3% of traffic to the video site comes from search engine Google.

Texting not Talking

Phone calls from landlines and mobiles are now less popular than ever. More people are texting instead with the average person sending 50 SMS messages per week to friends and family. There are now 81.6 million mobile subscriptions in the UK meaning many people own more than one phone with 49% of mobile subscribers using a contract rather than Pay As You Go.

Amazingly, a third of 16-24 year olds now live in homes where a mobile is the only form of telephone, that’s more than double the 15% average. For the first time ever, more than half of all calls made were done on a mobile as opposed to a fixed line phone. This could be due to the average cost of a mobile call falling to the same level as a landline in 2011.

Mobile owners are smarter than ever

Smartphone ownership is up by 12% since 2010 with four in 10 adults having one. Half use theirs for email with 47% saying they use their computers less for that task.

Nearly half watch video clips on their smartphone. The time spent using the internet on mobile devices is up by a quarter with the volume of data consumed on the move doubling in the 18 months up to January.

Internet speeds get faster

The average broadband speed in Britain is now 7.6Mbit/s with the total number of fixed broadband connections in the UK now more than 20 million with 76% of UK homes now owning broadband.

There are also five million mobile broadband connections out there. However, superfast broadband accounts for only 6.6% of all of these connections. Homes have three different types of internet-enabled device – such as a laptop, smartphone or games console – with 15% owning six or more.

The page turns for E-readers

One in 10 UK adults now owns an E-reader such as the Amazon Kindle or rivals from Sony and Kobo. It means 41% of owners admit they now read more since owning one of the devices with them reading less on other formats. Six in 10 read less paper-based products especially paperback books.

Tablets are taken more often

There has been a marked rise in the ownership of tablet computers such as the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab. They’re up from 2% in the first three months of 2011 to 11% during the same period of 2012.

A third of owners said they can’t live without their tablet with 17% of homes intending on buying one in the next year. Surfing the web is one of the most popular uses with 37% of those with a tablet saying they browse the internet more since they bought it.

Six in 10 check emails on the tablet and 46% access social networks. Nearly a quarter use the likes of Facebook and Twitter more because they have a tablet. But while two thirds share theirs with other people they live with, strangely 9 in 10 mainly use the portable device at home.

Are you a ROBO shopper?

According to Ofcom, there is now a generation of so-called ROBO shoppers who do their research on products they want to buy offline but then buy them online.

Half of smartphone owners say they use their mobile when out shopping, with a third taking photos of products, a quarter comparing prices online while instore, a fifth scanning bar-codes for more information and the same number reading product reviews online or researching product features.

And away from technology…

It may not be the most technology-led way of communicating and so it’s no surprise given electronic forms of staying in touch that the use of post is down 30%. It’s still the preferred way to send greetings such as birthday cards but with UK adults sending an average of 3.2 letters or cards a month.

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