18 July 2012
Text-based communications are surpassing traditional phone calls or meeting face to face as the most frequent ways of keeping in touch for UK adults.
The findings were revealed when adults were asked what methods they used at least once a day to communicate with friends and family.
The average UK consumer now sends 50 texts per week - which has more than doubled in four years - with over 150 billion text messages sent in 2011. Almost another ninety minutes per week is spent accessing social networking sites and e-mail, or using a mobile to access the internet, while for the first time ever fewer phone calls are being made on both fixed and mobile phones.
Teenagers and young adults are leading these changes, increasingly socialising with friends and family online and through text messages despite saying they prefer to talk face to face.
According to Ofcom's Communications Market Report 2012, 96% of 16-24s are using some form of text based application on a daily basis to communicate with friends and family; with 90% using texts and nearly three quarters (73%) using social networking sites.
By comparison, talking on the phone is less popular among this younger age group, with 67% making mobile phone calls on a daily basis, and only 63% talking face to face.
The report shows that traditional forms of communications are declining in popularity, with the overall time spent on the phone falling by 5% in 2011. This reflects a 10% fall in the volume of calls from landlines, and for the first time ever, a fall in the volume of mobile calls (by just over 1%) in 2011.
These changes in communication habits reflect the rapid increase in ownership of internet-connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones - making access to web-based communications easier.
UK households now own on average three different types of internet-enabled device - such as a laptop, smartphone or internet-enabled games console - with 15% owning six or more devices.
Four in ten (39%) adults now own a smartphone, a 12 percentage point increase on 2010. Forty-two per cent of these now say that their smartphone is the most important device for accessing the internet, with over four in ten (42%) regularly using social networking sites and half (51%) using e-mail.
Ofcom's continued research also suggests that smartphones are leading to a substitution between devices. Owners say they are using PC and laptops less for a range of activities since getting a smartphone, including watching video clips (51%) and sending messages (47%).
Overall, the time spent using the internet on mobile devices is up by a quarter (24.7%) year on year, with the overall volume of mobile data consumed doubling in the 18 months to January 2012.
Smartphones are changing people's shopping habits, encouraging online bargain hunting - or Robo (Research offline buy online) shopping.
Over half of smartphone users claim to use their phone in some way when out shopping. This includes taking photos of products (31%), making online price comparisons (25%), scanning bar codes to get more product information (21%), reading product reviews online (19%) and researching product features (19%).
Ownership of tablet devices, such as Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab, has risen rapidly in the last year from 2% of UK households in Q1 2011 to 11% in Q1 2012. This growth looks set to continue with over a third (34%) saying they could not live without their device and nearly one in five (17%) households saying they intend to buy a tablet in the next year.
Thirty-seven per cent of tablet owners say that they browse the internet more than they did before owning a tablet. While entertainment is the most popular use for tablets, they are also used frequently for checking e-mail (63%) and accessing social networking sites (46%), with nearly a quarter of people (23%) saying they spend more time social networking than they did previously.
Two thirds of consumers share their tablet with the other people they live with, while 29% sometimes let other people use their tablet. Despite their portability, 9 in 10 mainly use their tablet at home.
One in ten (10%) UK adults now have an e-reader, with 41% of owners claiming to read more since buying the device.
However, owners are reading less on other formats. Six in ten (62%) people said they read less paper-based material since owning an e-reader, driven by a decrease in reading paperback books (60%). One in ten (10%) say they read fewer paper magazines and 8% said they are reading printed newspapers less.
Internet connected 'smart TVs' are growing in popularity with 5% of UK households now owning one, giving consumers the ability to 'Turf' - both watch TV and surf the web.
Many owners admitted they were initially ambivalent about the new technology, with around half (47%) saying they were unconcerned by the TV's web-browsing capabilities when making their purchase. Despite this, over two thirds (65%) claim to have subsequently used the internet connection on their smart TV.
As smart TVs grow in popularity, so is the physical size of the average TV screen. More than one third (35%) of TVs sold in the UK in Q1 2012 were either 'super-large' (33" to 42") or 'jumbo' sized (43" and over). This compares with just 1% of TVs of these sizes that were sold in 2001.
According to Ofcom research, it is anticipated that at least 38 million adults in the UK will tune into the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games on TV. And one quarter of working people plan to follow the Games while at work, with 25% planning to watch or listen to the Games during office hours.
New technology is also likely to have an effect on how people watch the sporting coverage. More than half (53%) of adults agree that it will make accessing coverage easier, while around one fifth (19%) said they are likely to follow developments on many different devices.
Social networking sites will also be used by some viewers to keep tabs on results and medal tables, with over one quarter (26%) of respondents claiming that social networking sites will make following the Games easier.
James Thickett, Ofcom's Director of Research, said: "Our research reveals that in just a few short years, new technology has fundamentally changed the way that we communicate. Talking face to face or on the phone are no longer the most common ways for us to interact with each other.
"In their place, newer forms of communications are emerging which don't require us to talk to each other - especially among younger age groups. This trend is set to continue as technology advances and we move further into the digital age."
The Communications Market Report website can be found here: www.ofcom.org.uk/cmr