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August 4, 2016

Digital Detox, IoT & Instant Messaging: 10 Ofcom figures which reveal how the UK uses the internet

List: Ofcom releases its Communications Market Report for 2016.

By Alexander Sword

The fact that a third of UK internet users have tried to give up using the internet is one of the revealing figures of this year’s Ofcom Communications Market Report, its biggest report of the year.

The report, which surveyed 2025 adults and 500 teenagers, reveals a rapidly changing internet world, with some people embracing new technology and others feeling left behind by it.

CBR looks at the top figures to emerge from the report.


1. The majority of people are ‘hooked’ on their device

Ofcom found that 59 percent of internet users consider themselves hooked on their connected device, with 34 percent saying that they find it difficult to disconnect.

In addition, 75 percent considered the web ‘important’ to their daily lives.

US comedian Louis CK has attacked smartphones for not allowing people to ‘just be [themselves] and not be doing something” and this is backed up here: 51 percent of all internet users say that due to the internet they never feel bored.

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49 percent of internet users said that they were spending longer online than they had originally intended each day, with 37 percent saying the same of social media.


2. Digital detoxes and tech time-outs

Ofcom found that 34 percent of adult internet users had taken time offline. Extrapolated to the whole population this would represent a huge 15 million internet users.

Ofcom found that 11 percent of respondents had done so in the last week.

The time before relapse varied amongst these respondents: 25 percent spent up to a day without the internet, 20 percent took up to a week off and 5 percent managed to survive a whole month.

The experience also varied: 33 percent of detoxers found they were more productive and 27 percent found it liberating. Tellingly, 25 percent found they enjoyed life more.

Among negative effects were a fear of missing out, experienced by 16 percent, while 15 percent felt lost and 14 percent felt cut off.


3. 4G reaches mass adoption

4G is approaching the halfway mark, with 46 percent of mobile subscriptions now using the technology. This was up from 28 percent in 2014.

Among over 55-year-olds 4G was beginning to establish itself. 20 percent now subscribe to a 4G service, an increase from 11 percent in 2015.

There was a 1.6 million increase in mobile subscriptions to 91.5 million during 2015, with almost half being 4G (39.5 million).


4. Smartphones remain the go-to device

The report found that 71 percent of UK adults now own a smartphone. This is an increase from 66 percent in last year’s report.

It also remains the most popular device for accessing the internet, chosen by 36 percent of internet users. The closest competitor was laptops, which was chosen by 29 percent of internet users).

Smartphone ownership among those aged 55 and over also increased from 32 percent to 42 percent in the year.


5. The dark side of tech

Tech is making people later and ruder, the report found. Many respondents reported that the internet was having detrimental effects on their lives.

Due to over-use of the internet, 48 percent said that they had neglected housework, 47 percent said they had missed out on sleep while 31 percent had missed out on spending time with friends and family.

22 percent of users admitted being later for a meeting with friends or family and 13 percent admitted being late for work. 26 percent of teens said that they had been late for work.

In addition, 25 percent of adults complained of being bumped into at least once a week by somebody who was looking at their phone.

40 percent felt they had been ignored by a friend or relative too engrossed in their smartphone or tablet.



6. Is post dying?

Letter volumes continued to fall, at an increasing rate, as people continued to find digital substitutes.

There were 12.2 billion addressed letters in 2015, a fall of 3.7 percent in the year. Revenues for addressed letters fell by 2 percent to £4.2 billion in the same period.

Parcel services are immune to this trend, however, due to the high demand for online shopping (23 percent said they preferred it to offline shopping). Royal Mail has estimated parcel volumes will grow 4 percent per year in the medium term.


7. How are people talking?

Email and texting remained the most common methods of text communication. Email is used by 70 percent and texting 63 percent in a given week.

However, instant messaging was on the up. Services such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are now used at least once a week by 43 percent of adults. Instant messaging is now considered the most important means of communication amongst 16 to 24-year-olds.

This is an increase from 28 percent of people in 2014.

Services based around video or photos, such as Snapchat, are now used by 21 percent of UK adults on a weekly basis, an increase from 14 percent in 2014.


8. That’s entertainment

The way we watch TV is changing, but the amount we watch less so.

Interestingly, broadcast TV is generating record revenues (£13.6 billion last year) mainly driven by the transition to a pay-TV subscription model.

The average amount of broadcast TV watched per person was 3 hours and 36 minutes.

It fell by 15 minutes a day among 16 to 24-year-olds, while it rose by two minutes amongst over-65s.

59 percent of UK adults used a video-on-demand service in 2015, up slightly from 57 percent in 2014. Weekly viewing of paid-for VoD services increased from 18 percent of UK adults in 2014 to 26 percent in 2016.

Netflix was the most popular service and Breaking Bad was the most watched programme.


9. The age of the IoT

While the research revealed the centrality of the smartphone to UK citizens, several new categories of devices were making a tentative debut.

Tablets, which have been popular since the release of the iPad in 2010, saw an increase in usage from 54 percent to 59 percent between 2015 and 2016.

Smart TVs saw more rapid increases: up from 20 percent to 27 percent.

The release of the Apple Watch doesn’t seem to have revolutionised the smart watch market in the way the iPad and iPhone did for tablets and smartphones, however. Smart watches rose from 3 percent to 5 percent.


10. The headline figure

As a final figure, 86 percent of adults now have home internet access via any device.

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