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06 August 2015

Financial Times: Telecom watchdog says smartphones are now UK’s preferred device

Smartphones have overtaken laptops as the UK’s preferred device for accessing the internet, according to an Ofcom survey, highlighting the need for businesses to adapt their strategies for mobiles.

One in three people say a smartphone is their most important device for going online, compared with 30 per cent who cited laptops, according to research from communications regulator Ofcom. In a similar survey last year, laptops led smartphones by 17 percentage points.

The growth in mobile devices has created challenges for companies as consumers demand simpler online interfaces and responsive websites. At the same time, the shift online has generated opportunities to replace call centres with cheaper web help services, and to use payment systems such as Apple Pay.

 “Retailers should become mobile-centric,” said Paul Lee, a media analyst at Deloitte.. “But they shouldn’t become mobile-only” — because consumers are still likely to use laptops and PCs for more complex transactions, he said.

The importance of mobiles has also led the government to work directly with network operators to provide coverage to underserved areas. Under a plan announced in December, the operators have agreed to invest £5bn to ensure that 90 per cent of the UK has at least voice and text coverage by 2017.

That emphasises the hurdle for media companies, which had once hoped that mobile devices — particularly tablets like the iPad — would be a profitable conduit for selling books, magazines and newspapers.

Ofcom, whose responsibilities include regulating competition between telecoms groups, said that consumers were receiving more services for less money.

The rise of mobiles is yet to erode the time dominance of the TV set, which the average Briton watches for three hours and 40 minutes a day. Mr Lee of Deloitte said that as smartphones became more widespread, there would also be more focus on the often-neglected market for used handsets. “The second-hand value of some phones is close to £400,” he said.

Full article (FT subscription required)

© Financial Times

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