Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland a country obsessed with smartphones

By Claire McNeilly

It's the first thing some people do when they wake up in the morning - and last thing at night. And, no, it's not brush their teeth.

In fact a lot of us can't eat, cross a busy road, push a buggy, sit in a cinema or talk to a friend without doing 'it'... which, if you haven't already guessed, is relentlessly checking the phone.

That one in five adults in Northern Ireland is now addicted to social media comes as little suprise.

What's more surprising is that the latest figures, laid bare by Ofcom research, remain so modest.

The watchdog's 2015 Communications Market Report also revealed - due to record ownership and stratospheric growth in usage - Northern Ireland has become a 'smartphone society'.

Indeed, those small, multi-funtional technological wonders, which are now found in almost two-thirds of our pockets (63%), have become the most important device for accessing the internet.

Smartphones now reign supreme when it comes to Ulster adults going online, with 37% using them to stay connected compared to 26% opting for laptops.

And although a staggering 90% of 16-24 year olds now possess a smartphone, ownership among 55-64 year old so-called 'silver surfers' has more than doubled since 2012, from 19% to 50%. The research also shows that people have become increasingly reliant on their devices for everything from getting around and checking the weather to updating social media and taking photos, racking up almost two hours' usage every day.

Ofcom's Northern Ireland director Jonathan Rose said a digital fixation had swept the province.

"We are becoming a nation of smartphone users.

"With these devices now overtaking the laptop as the preferred way of getting online," he said.

"The continued expansion of 4G services should mean further growth in the year ahead, as consumers take advantage of new features and apps that exploit the increased speed offered by this technology."

According to the latest report, people here spend more than 21 hours a week online - that's above the UK average and the highest of all four regions.

The amount of time we spend online has doubled in just 10 years, although that's still less than the amount of time spent watching television (almost four hours a day).

Among Ofcom's other findings:

  • Over half (54%) of Northern Ireland households have tablets - up from just 2% in 2011.
  • Over half (57%) of people think online communication makes life easier but a fifth (20%) believe we spend too much time on the internet.
  • Facebook remains the most popular social networking website (65%) followed by Whatsapp (40%) and Twitter (33%).
  • Television remains the most important source of news here, followed by radio and newspapers.
  • Local radio is more popular in Northern Ireland than in the other UK regions.
  • Northern Ireland has a higher take-up of paid TV (70%) than anywhere else in the UK.
  • Households across the UK spend £31 a month on television services and £44 on mobiles monthly.
  • A majority of Northern Ireland adults have expressed concerns about sharing personal information online, with 13% admitting to having posted things they wish they hadn't.
  • Broadband take-up here is below the UK average, with 72% of local homes having a (fixed and mobile) connection compared with 80%.
  • Ulster adults send less mail than any of their UK counterparts.

Belfast Telegraph