Belfast Telegraph

The smartphone generation

By Adrian Rutherford

A technological revolution is changing the way people in Northern Ireland communicate with each other.

More than half of us own a smartphone while we are also the tablet capital of the UK.

We also spend nearly as much time on our phones, watching TV and listening to the radio each day as we do sleeping.

The details emerged in a report published today by communications regulator Ofcom.

Its key findings include:

  • Almost half (45%) of people in Northern Ireland own a tablet computer – the joint highest in the UK.
  • Smartphone ownership has risen from 45% to 55% in the last year.
  • Some 51% of people now access the internet on the move.
  • Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, is now used by 58% of people online.
  • Nationally, a "millennium generation" of 14 and 15-year-olds, born around the turn of the century, are now the most technologically advanced people in the UK.

James Stinson, regulatory affairs manager at Ofcom Northern Ireland, said changes in technology were transforming our day-to-day lives.

"Just a few years ago it was the norm to sit at a desk to go online but the rapid rise in smartphone ownership means that more than half of us now access the internet on the move," he said.

"Elsewhere, Northern Ireland still ranks best in the UK for superfast broadband availability while there have been noticeable and welcome improvements in both 2G and 3G coverage over the last year."

The report gives an insight into how people use communications devices. While 58% of people access Facebook, Twitter and similar services online, another 68% say they use the web for purchasing goods or services, up from 60% last year.

Northern Ireland also has a higher level of pay-TV take-up. Two-thirds (67%) of homes have Sky, Virgin Media, BT Vision or paid-for top-up services, compared with 62% for the UK as a whole.

The research also highlights the popularity of Irish TV channels in Northern Ireland. Around one in four people watch RTÉ One every week, with smaller numbers watching RTÉ Two, TG4 and TV3. Ownership of a DAB digital radio set has risen to almost a third (30%) of households. This is a year-on-year increase of six per cent but take-up remains lowest in Northern Ireland within the UK.

This year's report also provides an insight into the media we consume.

Research shows consumers here spend almost as much time consuming media every day (8 hours and 29 minutes) as they do sleeping.

Four and a half hours of this is spent watching television. However, consumers also spent the equivalent of 2 hours and 14 minutes communicating by email, text, social networks, instant messaging and voice calls. A further two hours a day were spent listening to radio or other audio.

Significantly, consumers in Northern Ireland claim to spend more media time on their mobile phone (16%) compared to the UK as a whole (12%).

The report found that by June this year, 95% of premises in Northern Ireland were served by the NGA (Next Generation Access) networks that are used to provide superfast broadband services – well above the UK average of 78%.

One in five adults in Northern Ireland also uses an e-reader to read books, magazines, and other text downloaded from the internet, up from 12% last year.


Ofcom's communications market report provides an overview of communications services across Northern Ireland and monitors key trends in the availability and take-up of digital services across the UK. Face-to-face surveys were conducted with 3,740 respondents aged 16 and over in the UK, with 499 interviews taking place in Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph