Teenage students using smartphones on a school break

Are you a ‘loudcaster’? The UK’s headphone-free listening habits revealed

Published: 14 October 2022
Last updated: 16 March 2023

Almost half of people now loudcast from their phone in public – but eight in ten find it annoying.

Many of us will have heard the sound of other people’s music or video while we’ve been out and about, thanks to some people’s habit of using their device without headphones.

With 90% of the UK now owning smartphones and taking advantage of widespread mobile internet access, people watching content on the move has become common in recent years. But how do we react to others doing this without headphones and with the volume turned up – known as ‘loudcasting’.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this on public transport, while grabbing a bite to eat – or even walking down the street. Or maybe you’re a loudcaster yourself?

As part of Ofcom’s role in tracking how people use technology, we researched people’s behaviours and attitudes when it comes to so-called loudcasting.

We asked them if and where they did it, and how they feel about others doing it.

Watching videos

Just under half (46%) of people say they watch videos without headphones in a public place, but that varies a great deal by age. Teenagers are around four times more likely to loudcast videos than people over 55 – while only 21% of over-55s do so, that rises to 83% of 13-17s.

It’s also more common among men (52%) than women (40%).

46%

of people say they watch videos without headphones in a public place

Making video calls

Similarly, just under half (45%) of people say they make video calls without headphones. And, there’s a big age divide here: only 23% of people aged 55+ say they loudcast video calls in public, but that rises to 69% of 13-17s.

Listening to music

Compared to videos and voice calls, fewer people say they listen to music in public places without headphones. Just over a third of people overall (36%) said they do this, and again, this was more common among younger people and respondents from BAME backgrounds.

Location matters

We asked people if they thought it was acceptable to loudcast in a range of public places. On the bus/train and in a restaurant or café are the most common locations, mentioned by 17% and 15% of our respondents respectively.

Overall, however, almost six in ten of the people we spoke to don’t think it’s acceptable to loudcast in any public place (58%), while four in ten (42%) said they do in at least one of the public places we asked them about.

How do people react?

Eight in ten people find loudcasting annoying.

And it seems the older we get, the more likely we are to be irked by this behaviour. Just over half (52%) of younger people told us they have a negative reaction to loudcasting, and this rises to nine in ten people (89%) aged 55 and over.

Even those who are loudcasting can find others doing so annoying – with almost three quarters of loudcasters admitting to being frustrated by hearing others on their devices.

Taking action

So how do we react when we experience others listening to their phones and other devices in public? About half of people maintain a British stiff upper lip and do nothing. The most common reaction for those who take action (cited by 44% of respondents) is to move away from the area. Only around one in 10 (9%) ask the person to stop. However, parents are more than twice as likely (14%) to ask someone to stop loudcasting, than non-parents (6%).

Reflecting their increased likelihood to have a negative reaction to loudcasting, older people aged 55+ are more likely to take action than people in other age groups.

Find out more about media habits

These findings follow on from Ofcom’s latest Media Nations report, which examines how people are using a range of media and technology to communicate, stay informed and entertained.

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