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Covid-19 has changed how we live, including how we use technology

Danny McConnell


Danny McConnell is technology partner at Deloitte in Belfast

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The long months of lockdown accelerated some digital trends (Joe Giddens/PA)

The long months of lockdown accelerated some digital trends (Joe Giddens/PA)

PA

The long months of lockdown accelerated some digital trends (Joe Giddens/PA)

It’s fair to say our digital habits have been evolving rapidly over the past 10 years, from the explosion of social media to the increased use of things we now take for granted, such as video calling.

We’ve seen over the past six months how reliant on technology the world has become and it’s doubtful that a lot of businesses (and families) could have functioned at all without it.

The long months of lockdown has accelerated some digital trends that were already on the way, such as the continued rise of entertainment streaming, but have also introduced some unexpected ones – for example who knew quite so many sensible adults would be so keen to embrace quirky, co-ordinated dance moves and make themselves TikTok famous.

According to Deloitte’s Digital Consumer Trends 2020 report, one in five UK adults (21%) – the equivalent of 10.3 million consumers - purchased at least one new digital device as a result of spending more time at home because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The mandatory ‘working from home’ conditions most people found themselves in undoubtedly caused a spike in first instance as people prepared for the long-term transition to the home office.

Up to 21.2 million digital devices were purchased during the first two months of the lockdown period, including two million printers and monitors. However, not all devices have seen an uptick in usage, with ownership of desktop or tower computers falling from 45% to 40% in 2020.

So, although our dependency on technology increased significantly this year, the trends show that not all forms of technology we consider standard household items will be part of our furniture in the future. The new generation of lifestyle technology on the other hand, seems set to continue to play an ever increasing role in our day to day lives.

Deloitte’s research, carried out in the midst of lockdown in May and surveying the digital habits of 4,150 respondents between the ages of 16 and 75, found that UK adults used 170.3 million devices daily during the first two months of lockdown, equating to 3.5 devices on average per person.

Games consoles, laptops, smart speakers and e- readers saw the highest uptick in usage. Among those who own the devices, daily usage of games consoles rose by 10 percentage-points, with 44% of owners using their console daily, up from 34% in 2019.

Meanwhile, daily smart speaker usage rose from 59% to 66%, laptop usage rose from 67% to 73% and e-reader usage rose from 30% to 34%.

When it comes to the most popular digital device in the market, the smartphone, it’s clear we really couldn’t have survived lockdown without them. Some 91% of UK consumers now own a smartphone, with 62% agreeing that they used their phone a lot more during the lockdown. The same proportion (62%) say that their smartphone has helped them to feel less isolated from family and friends while social distancing restrictions have been in place.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, fitness bands and smart watches both experienced a decline in usage as consumers spent more time at home as a result of the pandemic.

But the shift wasn’t huge, with 60% of fitness band owners using their device daily during the lockdown period, down from 64% in 2019, while daily smart watch usage declined from 64% to 62%.

This comes despite an overall increase in the adoption of wearables, from 27% to 31% in the last year.

But the pandemic has also prompted some people who were once hesitant or passive to the idea of smart speakers or fitness bands, to purchase these kinds of technologies given the increased amount of time they’re spending at home.

Much like smartphones, computers and tablets we anticipate that household and health devices will see a surge in popularity. Health devices in particular are likely to increase in popularity as a result of Covid-19, with many more willing to invest in this technology to track their fitness levels and even detect symptoms of illness early on.

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