[Ofcom Report] digital dependency, smartphones and connectivity over the last decade

Most people in the UK are dependent on their digital devices, and need a constant connection to the internet, following a decade of digital transformation according to the new Ofcom Communications Market Report.

  • 17% of people owned a smartphone in 2008. In 2018 that figure has reached 78%, and 95% among 16-24 year-olds.
  • People in the UK now check their smartphones, on average, every 12 minutes of the waking day. Two in five adults (40%) first look at their phone within five minutes of waking up, climbing to 65% of those aged under 35.

In contrast to a decade ago, most people now say they need and expect a constant internet connection, wherever they go.

  • 64% say the internet is an essential part of their life. One in five adults (19%) say they spend more than 40 hours a week online, up from 5% just over ten years ago.
  • Over the last decade, better access to the internet has transformed how we interact with each other.  41% say being online enables them to work more flexibly, and 74% say it keeps them close to friends and family.
  • Using a mobile for phone calls is only considered important by 75% of smartphone users, compared to 92% who consider web browsing to be important.

For significant numbers of people, being online has negative effects.

  • 15% of respondents agree that connectivity makes them feel they are always at work.
  • 54% admit that connected devices interrupt face-to-face conversations with friends and family.
  • 43% admit to spending too much time online.

In an ‘always on’ society, people expect to be connected everywhere through a plethora of devices. Most recognise that the benefits of being online outweigh the disadvantages, although increasingly, many acknowledge that ubiquitous internet access is disrupting the quality of human relationships.

Ofcom Communications Market Report