The smartphone: now the primary device – Google

A new report from Google finds that in the UK people's preference for going online via their trusty smartphones has doubled in 5 years.

A new report from Google documents findings from a massive 5-year study with 625.000 interviews with consumers around the world.

In the UK, 3 in 4 now use a smartphone and the average Briton now uses 3.3 internet-connected devices.

The new report reveals the effect of the monumental change in UK and world media habits brought about by the internet in just half a decade.

Daily internet use flourishes

83% of people in the UK use the internet for personal purposes, a number similar to other major European countries such as France and Germany.

The UK level is a bit higher than the mean across the 56 markets polled (77%), although the UK is trailing countries such as Saudi Arabia (90%), South Korea (91%) and Sweden (94%).

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While this total level of internet penetration has been relatively stable in the UK, it is remarkable that the proportion of daily internet users has increased from 56% in 2012 to 68% today. And when Britons get online, the internet becomes very popular: for 84% it is the first place they look when they need information.

A trusted sidekick

For most Britons, the biggest digital change in the last five years is probably their smartphone. In 2012, one in three consumers across 40 markets had access to a smartphone.

Just four years later, the number has risen to a staggering 70%. In the UK, 3 in 4 use a smartphone, compared to just 51% in 2012.

At the same time, people are using more devices than ever. 65 % say they access the internet at least as often via smartphone as computer. That’s almost twice as many as in 2012, when the number was 35%. The days of thinking of the smartphone as a secondary device are long gone.

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And while the growth of the smartphone has been swift across all demographics, the smartphone has become a trusted sidekick especially for young Britons. For those under 25 the smartphone is a device to:

  • Find information: 88% use search engines at least weekly.
  • Watch video: 77% watch online videos at least weekly.
  • Interact with their friends: 90% visit social networks at least weekly and 88% check email.
  • Go shopping: 28% purchase products or services at least weekly, while 46% look for product information.

A land of many devices

Across all age groups, 41% of Britons told Google they use both a computer, a tablet and a smartphone – an astounding growth from 10% just five years ago.

>See also: 5 trends impacting enterprise mobility

On average, the British use 3.4 internet-connected devices, where they back in 2012 used just 2.3 – a nearly 50% growth rate. For instance, 12% of Britons use an eReader, one of the highest adoption rates in the world.

More notable UK numbers

54% say they prefer to do a task digitally, if they have the opportunity. For 50% of British smartphone users the smartphone is the first thing they reach for in the morning – it’s their primary alarm clock.

For 32% it’s their primary source for news. And for 33% it’s their primary way to listen to music. Almost half (45%) of those over the age of 55 use a smartphone.

76% of Britons say they go online with their smartphone or other connected devices while watching TV, including 93% of those under 25 and 54% of those over 55.

25% of UK men but only 10% of UK women look up directions and maps on their smartphones at least weekly.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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