Ofcom: UK embraces latest mobile phone technology

News organisations focusing efforts on development of digital platforms will be reassured by news that Britons are leading the way in adopting the latest mobile phone technology.

A report by media regulator Ofcom revealed today that the UK saw the fastest growth in smartphone take-up in the last year, with a 70 per cent rise in subscriber numbers between January 2009 and January this year.

The past year has seen news publishers rush to open-up potentially rich new revenue streams by latching on to the UK's fondness for mobile technology with the launch of paid-for smartphone and tablet apps.

John Ridding, chief executive of the Financial Times, said this week the iPad edition of the paper had been downloaded 430,000 times since launch in April. The paper's smartphone app has also proved wildly popular with readers.

Publishing the results of its fifth global communications study, Ofcom said today Italy has the highest take-up of smartphones overall among European countries with 26 subscribers for every 100 people but it was closely followed by the UK with 18 subscribers per every hundred people.

The UK experienced significantly faster growth in high value subscribers - more likely to use premium handsets such as the iPhone - than any other European country with 61 per cent growth, compared to Spain with just four per cent growth.

The internet also accounted for a larger proportion of advertising spend (27 per cent) in the UK than in any other comparator country.

The report found British consumers are using their mobile phones for social networking more than in other countries, 24 per cent for the UK, compared to 13 per cent in Germany.

Younger people in the UK are also more likely to visit social networking sites on their mobiles compared with other nations, with 45 per cent of 18-24s and 38 per cent of 25-34s saying they did this.

The number of social networkers among 18 to 24-year-olds and 55 to 64-year-olds is also higher in Britain than other countries; with 86 per cent of UK 18-24s saying they use the internet for social networking, compared to 77 per cent in France and 48 per cent in Japan.

Approximately 45 per cent of UK 55-64s said they use the internet for social networking compared to 30 per cent in Germany and 13 per cent in Japan.

According to the report, Britain is the second biggest text messaging nation in Europe after Ireland, with 140 messages per person per month, compared with 218.

Britons are avid online shoppers. The research found UK internet users made more than double the number of online purchases in the past six months than internet users in any other major European country except Poland - 19 and 14 online purchases respectively.

The total value of online purchases internet users said they made in the same period was highest in the UK with £1,031, nearly twice the amount spent by internet users in the next-placed country, France with £595.

James Thickett, director of research and market intelligence said: "The internet is changing people's habits, not just in social networking; they are using the internet as a way of transacting.

"UK consumers are making more purchases and shopping on the internet more than any other country."

Thickett attributed this to the high proportion of Britons with credit cards, the country's tradition of buying from catalogues and the early impact of website Amazon back in 1998.

Britain bucked the trend seen in most countries for using a desktop PC as the most popular device to access the internet at home.

In the UK portable laptops are the preferred method, used by 69 per cent of internet users.

Mobile internet is also popular with Britons, with 29 per cent of internet users saying they use their mobile to access the internet at home, second only to those in Japan on 43 per cent.

The report found that despite the recession, people were less likely to cut down on communications services.

All countries reported a growth in mobile connections and a corresponding decline in fixed-line connections.

The UK and Spain led the way on digital TV take-up (91 per cent) as the digital switchover is implemented.

While British consumers are ahead of the rest of the world in take-up of HD ready TV sets – 59 per cent of UK households compared to 57 per cent in the US, - take-up of HDTV services is lower in the UK than in other countries, where take-up is linked to the amount of HDTV channels available.

British television viewers watched more TV than the average 207 minutes per day, watching 225 minutes, unchanged from 2008.

US viewers watched more TV than in any other country with 280 minutes per day.

The UK had the second highest number of homes behind America with pay TV DVDs (such as Sky+ and V+) at the end of 2009 with 7.8m devices, up by 40 per cent on 2008.

Approximately 24 per cent of British internet users accessed online television services such as player on a weekly basis.

Digital radio take-up in the UK was the highest among the countries Ofcom surveyed with almost a third (31 per cent) claiming to own and use a digital radio.

The report revealed the take-up of super fast broadband in the UK lags behind many other countries, with fewer than one in 50 households having it compared to 34 per cent in Japan.

It outlined a UK target of 66 per cent of households having access to next-generation broadband by 2015.

Superfast mobile networks are also late to launch in the UK, according to the data.

Mobile broadband speeds have increased internationally with HSPA+ and LTE services technologies deployed in most countries throughout 2009 and 2010.

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