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Smartphones now most popular device for getting online, says Ofcom

Smartphones have overtaken laptops as the most popular device for getting online, says Ofcom.

Two thirds of people now own a smartphone, using it for nearly two hours every day to browse the internet, access social media, bank and shop online.

Ofcom's 2015 Communications Market Report reveals that a third (33%) of internet users see their smartphone as the most important device for going online, compared to 30% who are still sticking with their laptop.

The rise in smartphone surfing marks a clear shift since 2014, when just 22% turned to their phone first, and 40% preferred their laptop.

Smartphones are now in the pockets of two thirds (66%) of UK adults, up from 39% in 2012. The vast majority (90%) of 16-24 year olds own one; but 55-64 year olds are also joining the smartphone revolution, with ownership in this age group more than doubling since 2012, from 19% to 50%.

We now spend almost twice as long online with our smartphones than on laptops and personal computers.

On average, adult mobile users spent nearly two hours online each day using a smartphone in March 2015 (one hour and 54 minutes), compared to just over an hour on laptops and PCs (one hour and nine minutes).

But this is still only half of the three hours and 40 minutes we spend in front of the TV each day.

Sharon White, Ofcom chief executive, said: “Today's report shows just how important reliable, fast internet access is to millions of consumers and businesses. Improving the coverage and quality of all communications services across the UK is a priority for Ofcom, for people at work, home or on the move.”

James Thickett, Ofcom director of research, said: “4G has supercharged our smartphones, helping people do everything from the weekly shop to catching up with friends with a face-to-face video call. For the first time, smartphones have overtaken laptops as the UK's most popular internet device and are now the hub of our daily lives.”

Time spent online

Increasing take-up of smartphones and tablets is boosting time spent online.

More than half of UK households (54%) now have a tablet, a rapid rise in popularity from just 2% in 2011.

Ofcom research shows that internet users aged 16 and above said they spend nearly 10 hours (9 hours and 54 minutes) online each week in 2005. It had climbed to over 20 hours and 30 minutes in 2014.

2014 saw the biggest increase in time spent online in a decade, with internet users spending over three and a half hours longer online each week than they did in 2013 (20 hours and 30 minutes in 2014, compared to 16 hours and 54 minutes in 2013).

Overall, people think their time online is bringing benefits. Almost two thirds (64%) of online adults agree that being online is invaluable for keeping them informed about current issues, and six in ten (60%) agree it helps keep them in touch with close family and friends.

But people overwhelmingly prefer to catch up with friends and family over a cup of tea. Almost seven in ten (69%) prefer to chat with family face-to-face, and 64% prefer to speak to friends this way, compared to just 3% who prefer social media for staying in touch. 

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