17m people in the UK worry about using their smartphones too much

Tyrone Stewart

Man mobile train station platformA staggering 17m people in the UK believe they are using their smartphones too much – that’s 39 per cent of all smartphone users – according to research from Deloitte.

Those in the 16 to 24-year-old age bracket are most concerned about their usage with 61 per cent, or 4.3m young people, thinking they are on their devices too much.

Of the 39 per cent who admit to overusing their phones, 83 per cent said they would like to do something about. Of these people, 21 per cent make an effort to limit their usage and usually succeed in doing so, 35 per cent try and fail, and 27 per cent would like to try.

Concerns surrounding smartphone usage aren’t just reflected on a personal level with those around us also worried. 56 per cent of parents think their children are on their phone too much, while 43 per cent of people thinking their partner is on their mobile device too often.

“The smartphone has been altering our lives, mostly for the better, for eleven years.  It is now an integral digital tool for work and play but users, particularly younger consumers, are becoming increasingly wary of overindulgence,” said Paul Lee, head of research for technology, media and telecoms at Deloitte.

“Over the next 12 months, the latest mobile operating software upgrades will enable tens of millions of smartphone users in the UK to start measuring their usage levels.  Whilst this will be a significant step forward in the maturing relationship between people and their favourite device, smartphone usage is likely to remain key part of the national conversation for years to come.”

Deloitte derived the figures from a survey of 4,150 people between the ages of 16 and 75 in the UK. Of these participants, 87 per cent now own or have access to a smartphone, up from 62 per cent in 2012.

55 per cent of respondents also said they use their smartphones for personal purposes during work hours – 23 per cent of these feeling ‘often’ distracted at work because of it.

The research also found that, of those that believe they use their phone too much, 44 per cent feel more distracted when trying to complete a task and 46 per cent feel the need to constantly check their device. Moreover, 27 per cent experience fear of missing out when not on their phone and, worryingly, 12 per cent experience physical pain from their overuse of their smartphones.

Elsewhere, away from the doom and gloom of smartphone usage figures, Deloitte found that 32 per cent of phones are now on SIM-only contracts, up from 19 per cent in 2015, and 59 per cent of respondents saying they had acquired their device within the past 18 months, down from 62 per cent last year.

“The popularity of SIM-only contracts is one of a number of reasons that have contributed to the slowing of the smartphone replacement cycle. Other factors, such as a burgeoning second-hand smartphone market, improving refurbishment and the lack of visual differentiation in recent iterations of smartphones, may encourage people to settle for a three-year old hand-me-down rather than a brand-new device,” said Dan Adams, head of telecommunications at Deloitte.

“Smartphone innovation remains unrelenting, however, and consumers will soon realise that forthcoming invisible upgrades, such as 5G, artificial intelligence and machine learning, will ultimately trump changes to physical appearances.”

On the note of artificial intelligence, the research also look at smartphone and smart speaker voice assistants – finding that smart speaker ownership has more than doubled from last year, rising from five per cent to 12 per cent. Perhaps surprisingly, amongst older consumers aged between 55 and 75-years-old, adoption of smart speakers has trebled from three per cent last year to nine per cent this year. And the highest smart speaker usage is amongst 45 to 75-year olds, with 63 per cent opting to utilise voice assistance on a daily basis compared to just 40 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds.

“Voice assistants are appealing to older generations who are less inclined to swipe and type than their younger peers,” said Lee.

“Whereas Millennials and Generation Z users have grown up using digital devices to type, tap and swipe, older users are much more comfortable speaking a request to a machine, avoiding the need to find reading glasses, or navigate to an on-screen menu.”