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Love for traditional features see Brits favour maps and alarm clocks over new-fangled smartphone technology

  • Nostalgia trip: GPS (42%), messaging apps like WhatsApp (36%) and built-in alarm clocks (35%) are universally considered the most useful mobile features, miles ahead of new-fangled functions like the iris scanner (2%)

  • Even among the younger generation, messaging apps (47%) far outstrip recently-added functions such as fingerprint ID (15%) and the Swype keyboard (9%)

  • Among newly-added phone features, the changes to iPhone 7’s dual lens rear camera (14%) was considerably more appealing than ‘innovative’ smartphone design like the LG G5 and Motorola Moto Z’s modular phones (6%)

  • Meanwhile, the majority (71%) of Brits have either never made in-store payments on a smartphone or have previously but don’t anymore, with 31% put off by concerns over security and cyber crime

Dual lens cameras, the demise of the headphone slot and 5G might be among the hottest smartphone trends to watch out for in 2017 but, as new research by, the independent price comparison and switching service shows, Brits’ love affair with more traditional mobile features dies hard. Nearly half of Brits (42%) rate GPS as the most useful smartphone feature, followed by messaging apps like WhatsApp (36%) and the built-in alarm clock (35%) – all of which have  been in use for years.

Meanwhile, iris scanning technology (2%) – which Microsoft introduced with its Lumia 950 handset in 2015 – and stylus pens (2%) languish at the bottom of the usefulness rankings. Despite an increased user consciousness around security in recent years, even fingerprint ID (13%) fails to match up to more established features in the popularity stakes.

Among the younger generation, which is usually considered to be more responsive to new ideas, the gulf is yet more pronounced. Almost half (47%) of 18-34 year olds consider messaging apps to be the most valuable mobile feature, over fingerprint ID (15%), Swype keyboard (9%) and over ten times (4%) more useful than virtual and voice activated assistants.

Table 1: most useful smartphone features

| Of the smartphone features listed below, which do you consider to be the most useful, if any? (select up to 3) | All Brits | 18-34 year olds | 35-54

year olds

| 55+

year olds

| | GPS (for maps, directions and sat nav) | 42% | 44% | 46% | 37% | | Messaging apps e.g. Whatsapp/Messenger | 36% | 47% | 36% | 27% | | Alarm clock | 35% | 42% | 41% | 25% | | Fingerprint ID | 13% | 15% | 14% | 9% | | Water and dustproofing | 11% | 13% | 14% | 7% | | Front facing ‘selfie’ camera | 8% | 11% | 8% | 5% | | Swype keyboard for faster typing | 6% | 9% | 7% | 4% | | Mobile payment technology | 6% | 8% | 6% | 4% | | Built in ‘locate and wipe’ my phone feature | 5% | 7% | 7% | 3% | | Do not disturb mode | 4% | 8% | 4% | 2% | | Virtual or voice activated assistant | 4% | 4% | 5% | 4% | | Iris scanner | 2% | 1% | 2% | 2% | | Ability to add filters to pictures/selfies | 2% | 4% | 2% | 1% | | Stylus pen | 2% | 2% | 2% | 3% |


Meanwhile, women are twice as likely (10%) to put the front-facing ‘selfie’ camera to good use than men (5%). On the other hand, men are more likely to find  Fingerprint ID (14%) useful than women (11%).

In terms of recent additions brought to us by the big brands, the iPhone 7’s dual-lens rear camera (14%) – allowing users to shoot pictures with a ‘bokeh’ effect – and Google Pixel’s personal assistant, Google Assistant (14%), stormed ahead in popularity over more ‘innovative’ mobile handset designs such as LG G5 and Motorola Moto Z’s modular phones (6%). Even the iPhone’s rethought home button (7%), which gives users new ways to interact with their phones, didn’t fare much better.

Meanwhile, more than seven in 10 (71%) Brits admit they have either never used a smartphone to pay for goods in shops or have previously but don’t anymore and only 2% admit to using it wherever they can. Despite this, Britons believe they are more than twice as likely to use mobile payment technology (21%) over other recent tech innovations, including virtual reality headsets (10%), and three times more likely to pay via NFC (Near Field Communications) than use a home automation box like Google Home or Amazon Echo (7%).

Nearly a third (31%) of Brits who have either never used a smartphone to pay for goods in shops or have previously but don’t anymore, say they are concerned about the security risks associated with mobile payments, and more than a fifth (21%) of Brits believe they’ve been victims of cyber crime – suggesting that security concerns remain a significant deterrent to a wider take-up of the technology. Although, more than half (59%) of Brits who have either never used a smartphone to pay for goods in shops or have previously but don’t anymore say their reluctance is down to the fact they simply prefer to use more traditional methods like cash or card to make payments to retailers.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at, says: “In recent years, smartphone developers have struggled to shout above the din in an increasingly saturated market. As it turns out, users are yet to be convinced by the abundance of new features on offer,  so perhaps the real value for developers lies in improving already established features and built-in apps.

“What this research highlights is how quickly we’ve become reliant on features that help us organise our lives, underlined by the popularity of Google Pixel’s personal assistant. This is borne out in the wider tech space, where wearables and connected home technology like Amazon Echo and Google Home are likely to become the new normal for time-poor users who are fed up of onerous life admin, and touchscreen technology for that matter.

“Meanwhile, messenger apps and GPS-powered services have quickly become everyday staples. While mobile payments haven’t quite taken off just yet, they head up the wishlist for the future – implying that smartphone users are drawn more to features that offer functionality.

“It is also proof that challenger smartphone makers can take on the big players with the right features. For anyone looking to upgrade their phone, and in the market for something a bit different, look at underdog brands like Huawei that deliver on specs and aren’t anywhere near as expensive.”

For more information visit or call 0800 093 0607


Claire Jones

Phone: 020 7148 4663


Twitter: @uswitchPR

Notes to editors

Survey conducted online via Opinium from November 11th to 15th 2016, among 2,002 nationally representative UK adults aged 18+. The results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.

  1. See Table 1

  2. See Table 1

  3. Table 2: The following table shows how recently added features to specific smartphone brands play among different age groups

Google Assistant on Google Pixel14%15%17%10%
iPhone 7’s dual lens rear camera14%24%13%8%
Apple’s new look Health app12%17%14%7%
Iris scanner on Note 711%12%13%10%
Samsung’s curved ‘edge’ screen10%15%11%5%
Split-screen productivity mode in Android Nougat8%16%8%3%
Rethought home button in iPhone7%10%8%4%
Modular phones as seen on LG G5 and Motorola Moto Z6%10%7%2%
None of the above54%37%52%70%
  1. Table 2: Use of mobile payment technology

Have you ever used your smartphone to pay for an item in store (via mobile payment technology)?Total
Yes - I have done previously, and do so occasionally11%
Yes - I have done previously, but I don't do this anymore4%
Yes - and now I pay using my smartphone wherever possible2%
Can't remember/ not sure2%
N/A - I don't own a smartphone14%
Net: Yes17%
  1. Respondents were asked: ‘Why do you not / no longer pay by smartphone?’ 31% selected ‘concern over security risk/cyber crime’



  4. Respondents were asked: ‘Out of the smartphone features listed below, which do you consider to be the most useful, if any?’ 10% of women and 5% of men selected ‘front facing ‘selfie’ camera’

  5. Respondents were asked: ‘Out of the smartphone features listed below, which do you consider to be the most useful, if any?’ 14% of men and 11% of women selected ‘Fingerprint ID’

  6. Respondents were asked: ‘Considering the different types of technology listed below, which of these are you MOST likely to use?’ 21% said mobile payments, 10% said virtual reality headset and 7% said ‘home automation box (like Google Home or Amazon Echo)’

  7. Respondents were asked: ‘To your knowledge, have you ever been a victim of cyber crime, which includes identity fraud and online payment fraud?’ The net response for ‘yes’ was 21%

  8. Respondents were asked: ‘Why do you not / no longer pay by smartphone?’ 59% selected ‘I prefer paying with cash or card’

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