Our love affair with mobile phones continues at a pace, as Britain’s number of connected users continues to rise.
Far from being just a way to contact your other half to tell them you might be late home for tea, mobile phones have integrated themselves so much into the daily fabric of our lives that is difficult to imagine being without one.
Anyone who has had the misfortune of unexpectedly damaging or losing their beloved device can attest to a sensation of real disconnectedness from society; for it is only when you are suddenly without your smartphone, you realise how dependant you were on it. Your calendars, credit cards, camera and even television, all gone with one slip of the hand.
It is only in the past 15 years that owning a mobile phone has become commonplace, with 92% of UK mobile users possessing a smartphone in March 2021.
The release of the first iPhone, in early 2007, arguably sparked a smartphone revolution – one that transformed our handheld habits into what they are today. Incidentally, a 2022 study by CMA (Competitions and Markets Authority) revealed that Apple is still the UK’s number one choice of smart handset.
Unsurprisingly, it is the youth of today who are really driving our smartphone obsession, with 96% of those aged 16-24 owning a smartphone device compared to 78% aged 55 and above. Even parents with children aged under 10 will appreciate the increasing pressure to provide a tablet or phone, whether that’s for entertainment, education, or to ensure their whereabouts.
At the start of 2022 there were 71.8 million mobile connections in the UK (4.2 million more than the UK population) – an increase of 3.8% from 2021 (around 2.6 million). This is likely because many people will have more than one connection registered to them (i.e. personal and work phones).
Just like emails signalled the end for the written letter, and digital music doomed CDs and cassettes, smartphones have inevitably led to the demise of the humble landline, with Britain expected to phase out the technology that runs them by 2025 – homes will instead be connected to a digital network.
Studies also show that mobile phones are close to becoming our number one digital device. They accounted for almost 47% of the electronic device market in July 2022, compared to just over 48% for desktop computers and 5% for tablets.
This change in our technological landscape is nothing short of a revolution that has transformed not how we communicate and work, but also how we socialise and even function in our daily lives.
Naturally, such swift change has its downsides. The number of hours spent on devices has increased year on year with the typical Brit spending an average of four hours per day gazing at screens. According to a 2021 Ofcom survey, people in the UK check their smartphones, on average, every 12 minutes of the waking day.
Not surprisingly, the demographic driving the market is also the one most affected by it. Teens are more likely to be addicted to their devices than any other age group. This can lead to anxiety and behavioural problems, particularly as studies have shown they struggle to manage screen-time effectively, largely because they haven’t developed self-control skills yet.
With insomnia, low self-esteem, and poor school performance becoming common symptoms of such overstimulation, parents are advised to take advantage of the parental controls most devices offer.
However, despite its flaws, our love of all things smart has made a positive impact on our society. Increased connectivity for those who would otherwise suffer from loneliness, a levelling up regarding education tools, and access to resources and viable avenues to make money for those who may struggle to work outside the home.