Smartphones have become commonplace since the late 2000s, with 92% of UK mobile users owning a smartphone in March 2021. However, the origin of these devices can be traced back to the early 1990s.
Our research has allowed us to compare mobile data over time and analyse trends to judge how mobile statistics in the UK have evolved in recent years.
At the start of 2022, there were 71.8 million mobile connections in the UK (4.2 million more than the UK population)—an increase of 3.8% from 2021 (around 2.6 million). This is likely because many people will have more than one connection registered to them (i.e. personal and work phones).
By 2025, it is predicted that the UK population will reach 68.3 million and that 95% (roughly 65 million people) will be using a smartphone.
As of 2021, 88% of all adults in the UK had a smartphone. When broken down by age, 96% of those aged 16-24 owned a smartphone device compared to 78% aged 55 and above.
These figures have increased dramatically since 2008, when only 17% of adults had a smartphone. In 2008, only 4% of people in the 55+ age bracket owned a phone, compared to 29% of 16-24-year-olds.
From the turn of the millennium, the number of UK mobile phone subscriptions has steadily increased from just over 43 million in 2000 to a peak of 85.3 million in Q3 2015.
At the end of March 2022, the number of active UK mobile subscriptions, excluding machine-to-machine (M2M), was 83.25 million. This was an increase of about 2% from March 2021. Over the same time period, the number of dedicated mobile broadband subscriptions also increased from 4.7 million to 5 million.
When broken down by population, in 2000, this represented over 73 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 UK inhabitants, rising to a peak of over 130 per 100 inhabitants in 2008. By 2014, this dropped to 116 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 people, before increasing up to 128 per 100 people by 2020.
According to Statcounter, mobile phones accounted for almost 47% of the electronic device market in July 2022, compared to just over 48% for desktop computers and 5% for tablets. In April 2022, the market share of mobile phones exceeded 50% for the first time (surpassing desktops by around 7%), before falling slightly in July.
Since they became more widely available in the UK, the smartphone penetration rate has increased year-on-year, reaching 92% in 2021.
In 2016, less than 50% of those aged 55 and over owned a smartphone, which rose to 83% five years later in 2021.
When comparing mobile phone brands, Apple continues to dominate the UK market. By July 2022, Apple contributed over 50% of UK mobile phone sales statistics, compared to 30% for Samsung and just under 5% for Huawei.
Motorola, Xiaomi, and Google each accounted for less than 3%, with Sony at a mere 1.1%.
Throughout 2021 and 2022, Apple’s dominance remained between 46% and 55%, and Samsung remained second behind their technological rivals, with a market share of between 27% and 33%.
For connections made to the internet between January and March 2021, 27% were from mobile devices, compared to 73% for Wi-Fi.
On average, the vast majority (82%) of mobile network connections were to a 4G network, compared to 17% for 3G and 1% for 2G.
People in urban areas are more likely to be connected to a 4G mobile network than in rural areas of the UK (82% compared to 77%). This is due to better coverage levels in UK cities, as well as management choices by network operators.
Comparative figures for 3G slightly favour rural than urban areas (21% vs 17%), whereas 2G networks are rarely connected to by UK mobile users, at 2% for rural areas and 1% for urban areas.
A third of people who connect to a mobile network do so through Three, followed by 29% for Vodafone, 27% for EE, and 24% for O2.
Of these mobile-only connections, 86% of those on the EE network connect to a 4G network, compared to 76% for Three. However, the Three network is more popular for 3G connections with just under a quarter (23%), but only 13% for EE.
This is down to differing levels of 4G network coverage across the UK and different providers' approaches to how they manage their networks. It should also be acknowledged that, for certain low-demand mobile activities, such as browsing the web or reading an email, a 3G connection is just as good and provides a similar web experience as a 4G connection.
Therefore, operators may choose 3G as a default connection option in areas with a weaker signal or increased network congestion. This will enable them to provide a more reliable connection service while helping to manage the overall network capacity.
As of 2021, the total annual UK search revenue was around £11.7 billion, which is more than double that of 2016. Over half (56%) of this can be attributed to mobile phone devices, amounting to £6.6 billion (more than three times the amount for 2016).
|Annual revenue (£bn)||5.1||5.9||6.8||7.8||8.4||11.7|
|Annual mobile contribution to total annual revenue (£bn)||1.9||2.7||3.5||4.4||4.7||6.6|
In Q1 2022, mobile phone services generated around £3 billion in retail revenue–a £3 million increase from the previous year (0.1%). The average monthly retail revenue per subscriber was just under £12 in Q1 2022, with postpaid subscribers generating about £10 more per month than prepaid subscribers (£14.36 and £4.87, respectively).
Up until the end of 2021, there were just over 85 million mobile phone subscriptions in the UK. Of these, 75% had a monthly phone contract, equating to more than 63.5 million subscriptions with over 21 million pay-as-you-go customers nationally.
The number of UK mobile phone subscriptions has grown gradually between 2007 and 2021. Some years (notably 2013, 2016, and 2020) saw a decrease in year-on-year numbers, the most being in 2020 by -1.4%. This could have been a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a resulting change to people’s income around this time.
The number of people on a monthly phone contract has increased yearly since 2007, going from nearly 27 million to over 61 million in 2020. As a percentage of total mobile subscriptions, in 2007, this was 36%. By 2020, this has more than doubled to 73%.
In Q1 2022, UK mobile phones revenue was just over £3 billion, which was slightly down on Q4 2021. Since 2018, the vast majority of revenue has been generated by contract bundles (including SIM-only deals), contributing 82% in Q1 2022. Data charges are the next largest category (just over 10%), followed by SMS and MMS (3.5%).
These patterns have largely followed since Q1 2018, however, revenue has slowly decreased quarter-on-quarter. In Q1 2018, mobile phones generated almost £3.4 billion, reaching a peak of over £3.5 billion in Q3 2018. Since then, it has been on a steady decline reaching a low of just over £3 billion in Q1 2021.
|Time period||Forecasted total revenue (£millions)|
Based on the revenue of the mobile phone market between Q1 2018 and Q1 2022 (via Ofcom), we estimate the total revenue of mobile phones in the UK to fluctuate over the coming months and years. Our forecasts predict that it will rise to a peak of £3.173 billion at the beginning of 2023, before gradually decreasing to just over £3.1 billion at the start of 2025.
Smartphones have multiple uses and functions. From using search engines to checking emails, and from accessing social networks to contacting friends and family, consumers around the world spend time on their mobile phones on various activities.
A recent Uswitch screentime report found that UK adults spend half of every day in front of a screen, with more and more people turning to mobile phones to complete daily activities.
According to Ofcom, the number of mobile-originated voice call minutes decreased by over 3% in Q1 2022 to almost 47 billion minutes year-on-year. In the same period, landline calls decreased by over 10% to 9.4 billion minutes.
In 2021, the volume of on-net UK mobile calls exceeded 54 billion minutes. However, off-net mobile calls occupied the majority of calls in 2021, with over 82 billion minutes
(an increase of almost 51 billion minutes from 2007). Q4 2021 alone amounted to nearly 14 billion minutes, with the vast majority attributed to off-net mobile calls.
The number of UK international calls has been decreasing from a peak of 7.93 billion minutes in 2013 to just 2.27 billion minutes in 2021. This could be due to a number of factors, such as cost, plus the advancement of Wi-Fi technologies around the world which make it easier and more convenient to call, without the additional charges. Apps such as Zoom, WhatsApp, and FaceTime also make it possible to also see the person you are talking to without having to directly pay for it, which is an added benefit for a lot of people.
Between February 2019 and February 2020, the daily use of online calls was marginally lower than mobile voice calls (31% compared to 38%, respectively). The average length of a standard mobile call increased by almost two minutes in March to April 2020 (the first six weeks of the Covid-19 lockdown in England) to five minutes 26 seconds. In 2021, the figure fell back down to pre-pandemic levels, with the average call lasting three minutes and 40 seconds.
There has been a dramatic decrease in messaging in recent years. Over 100 billion annual texts were sent between 2009 and 2015. However, since then, the number has rapidly dropped year-on-year, to just over 40 billion in 2021. Again, this could be attributed to the rise of online alternatives, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to contact people.
|2020 (Pre-lockdown)**||2020 (Post-lockdown)*||2021|
In 2021, people in England and Scotland spent marginally longer on voice calls compared to Wales and Northern Ireland, by around 15 seconds. There was very little difference between those in rural and urban areas, with those living in the UK countryside making calls an average of five seconds longer than those in UK cities.
71% of voice calls in 2021 were under five minutes, compared to 77% in 2020 post-lockdown. In 2021, the vast majority of phone calls (59%) were under 90 seconds, with just 4% greater or equal to 20 minutes.
In Q1 2022, the number of mobile messages (including SMS and MMS) saw a year-on-year decline of 1.3%, down to 9.5 billion.
In the 12 months leading up to February 2020, substantially more adults were sending daily text messages using online messaging platforms than standard SMS. 52% were using WhatsApp and/or Facebook Messenger, compared to 41% using SMS and 26% via email.
As of 2022, almost 96% of UK internet users owned a smartphone. Of these people, 89% of those aged between 16-64 use their smartphone to access the internet.
In 2021, the amount of data used by UK mobiles exceeded 5.7 million terabytes (TB).
When comparing mobile phone data usage over time, there has been a steady increase, from just under 280,000 TB in 2013 to nearly 1.3 million TB in 2016. By 2020, this had reached 4.4 million TB, after which a further 1.3 million was added in 2021.
Given that the annual data usage was just 9,000 TB in 2011, this has meant a significant increase in mobile data consumption over the previous 12 years, which shows no sign of slowing down.
Across 2021, the estimated average mobile data use was 2.3GB per user per month, much lower than the 2020 UK average of 4.5GB.
An Ofcom study found that, of all mobile phone users, over half of respondents (52%) were light data users, consuming less than 500MB per month. Almost one in five (18%) were heavy users, using more than 2.5GB per month.
61% of those on the O2 network were more likely to be light data users, compared to 50% on the Three network.
Conversely, those on Three were more likely to be heavy data users, with one in five downloading more than 2.5GB per month (the most out of all networks surveyed). This supports findings that O2 network users spend more time connected to Wi-Fi than those on other networks, with the reverse being the case for those on Three.
Around a third of people across all networks can be defined as medium data users (those using between 500MB and 2.5GB of monthly data).
In 2021, UK mobile phone users spent an average of four hours per day on their devices. This is an increase of 0.3 hours in previous years, which has steadily increased since 2019.
According to a 2021 Ofcom survey, people in the UK check their smartphones, on average, every 12 minutes of the waking day. Two in five adults (40%) look at their phone within five minutes of waking up, reaching 65% of those aged 35 and under. Similarly, 37% of adults check their phone five minutes before going to sleep, with the comparable figure for under-35s rising to 60%.
Figures covering frequency of mobile phone usage shows a relatively even split between males and females. In 2019, males were slightly more likely to use their mobiles to make several calls a day, with almost half (49%) doing this compared to 46% of females. However, 24% of females claimed to make daily calls compared to 21% of males. Only 1% of males and 1% of females surveyed admitted to never using their mobile phones to make calls.
|Year||% of people who use their mobile phone to go online|
Between 2009 and 2021, the percentage of UK internet smartphone users more than tripled. By 2021, 88% of people who use mobile phones do so to access the internet (a 210% increase on figures from 2009).
|Group||% of internet users|
In 2021, 21% of internet users accessed the internet exclusively from their smartphone. This is almost double compared to 2020 when the figure stood at just 11%.
When broken down into groups, almost a third (32%) of those aged 25-34 only used their devices to access the internet—the most of any age group. Conversely, only 9% of the over 65s used their smartphones to solely access the world wide web.
Almost one in three of the financially vulnerable were likely to just use their smartphone to access the internet, compared to 21% for those financially secure and just 10% for those with a financial surplus.
Women were also more likely than men to be smartphone-only internet users, with 24% compared to 18% of men.
As of March 2021, the UK digital population accounted for approximately 40 million unique users on smartphones, compared to 21.6 million tablet users, and 30.4 million desktop users.
The over 55s dominate the different age groups, with 10.6 million unique smartphone users, compared to just 5.3 million for those aged 18-24.
|16+ internet users||16-24||25-34||35-44||45-54||55-64||65+|
In 2021, 85% of those people aged 16+ were smartphone internet users, up from 65% in September 2019. When broken into age groups, 93% of those between 35-44 use the internet on their phones (the most of any age bracket), compared to just under 60% for those over 65.
When broken down over time, those aged between 55-64 have seen the biggest increase in smartphone internet usage, going from 9% in 2012, to 87% in 2020. This is followed by the over 65s, going from just 3% in 2012 to 65% in 2020.
98% of those between the ages of 16 and 44 use their smartphone to access the internet. In 2012, 86% of 16-24-year-olds were smartphone internet users, showing the smallest increase over the recorded eight-year period.
In November 2021, web page viewing from mobile phones accounted for almost half (47%) of UK web traffic. By contrast, laptop and desktop computers had a combined share of around 52%, while tablet devices only covered just over 5%.
An advantage of smartphones is that they can be used to complete many tasks, such as sending and receiving emails, shopping online, and writing reports or presentations for work. However, some of these functions are more difficult on a smartphone, due to the smaller screen size or limitations surrounding functionality or data allowance.
88% of smartphone users had used their devices to complete a form/application, and over a quarter (26%) did so on a weekly basis. Yet, 71% agreed it was more difficult to do this on a smartphone than on a laptop or desktop computer. 55% of the smartphone-only population agreed with this statement.
Comparing products and/or services online was also perceived to be more difficult on a smartphone, according to 54% of smartphone users. 37% of smartphone-only internet users agreed with this statement, while 31% disagreed.
Almost a third (32%) of smartphone users claimed that when they go online to complete tasks, they do so as quickly as possible to avoid using too much data. 35% of those who only use smartphones for internet access agreed. However, larger data packages and greater availability of free Wi-Fi in recent years, have reduced concerns about reaching or exceeding mobile data limits.
When comparing online activities and which devices people prefer to use when completing those activities, the greatest difference in favour of smartphones was accessing social media (62% compared to 15% who preferred to use a laptop/computer).
More than half of respondents (54%) would also rather use their smartphone to make video calls, do online banking (53%) and catch up on the news (50%), compared to a respective 23%, 26%, and 19% who preferred to use a laptop or desktop computer for these activities.
Meanwhile, 63% preferred to use a desktop or laptop device to watch TV and films, compared to just 12% on smartphones. Similarly, over two-thirds (67%) would rather use a laptop/desktop for completing a job application, in contrast to 13% on a smartphone.
According to Ofcom’s 2021 Online Nation Report, 42.5 million UK adults (94% of the online adult population) used applications (apps) on their smartphone or tablet devices. By comparison, 39.9 million (88% of the adult online population) use apps purely on their smartphones.
YouTube was the most popular app across all UK mobile devices, reaching almost 32 million people (75% of the online adult population). This totalled almost 32 minutes per day and is almost twice as long as people spend on Facebook, in second place.
Facebook’s reach is 31.7 million (74% of the online adult population), with adults spending an average of 16 minutes and 46 seconds per day on the social media app. In 2021, it was reported that almost 70% of UK Facebook users accessed the platform from their smartphones.
WhatsApp, in third, is the most popular online messaging service. In 2020, the number of users reached 29.6 million (70% of the online adult population), with an average of just over seven and a half minutes each day.
Incidentally, Amazon is the only app in the top 10 that is not owned by Meta (formerly Facebook) or Google, further highlighting the dominance of these two companies in the technological world.
Mobile e-commerce accounts for almost 73% of total retail commerce in the UK. In 2020, the number of unique UK visitors to Amazon websites on mobile devices exceeded 37 million. This was the most visited online shopping app, followed by eBay (with over 25 million) and Sainsbury's (at just under 17 million).
When comparing the most-used apps by operating system, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Facebook are more common on Android devices compared to iPhones.
YouTube can be found on 82% of Android phones, compared to just 57% of iPhones. Similarly, WhatsApp is used on 80% of Android phones, but only 69% of their Apple counterparts.
Google Play, Google Search, Gmail and YouTube all come pre-installed on Android devices, whereas The Weather Channel and Apple News are the only pre-installed apps on iPhones. This could account for their respective high reach percentages.
Six of the top 10 apps on Android are owned by Google, and three are owned by Facebook, compared to four and two, respectively, on iPhones.
When comparing figures from 2019, WhatsApp has seen its reach increase by eight percentage points on Android and four percentage points on iPhones. Conversely, Instagram has seen a decline of 18 percentage points on iPhones between 2019 and 2020.
|Year||% of respondents who prefer to access the news from their smartphone|
As of February 2022, 64% of respondents from a YouGov survey used their smartphone to access the news. From 2012, this number has steadily increased, from 28% to a peak of 68% in 2021.
|Year||% of mobile users who have played games on their mobile device|
In 2021, 230 billion apps were downloaded across the globe, and by 2027, this is expected to generate over $366 billion (£290 billion) in revenue.
An Ofcom survey between October and December 2021 found that 37% of respondents had played games on their mobile devices, down from 39% the previous year. Considering that, in 2009, only 6% of mobile users had played online games, this is a significant rise over the previous 12 years (31 percentage points).
At the beginning of 2020 (during the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic), mobile gaming made double-digit gains across all age groups, with those aged 35-44 seeing the biggest growth of 24 percentage points.
|Year||Consumer spending (£mn)|
(Source: Ukie; VGC; Omdia)
In 2021, 73% of the time spent online by UK adults was on a smartphone.
This year also saw UK consumer spending on online gaming exceed £1.46 billion, making it the second-largest gaming software segment of the economy behind digital console game sales.
Despite there being a slight drop of £40 million between 2020-21, total spending on online games rose considerably year-on-year since 2011, from £158 million to £1.5 billion in 2020. This is an increase of almost 850% across the previous decade.
UK online adults spend more time using mobile devices than tablets and computers. 85% of those aged 25-34 prefer to use a smartphone for online gaming, compared to 80% of 35-44-year-olds, 78% of 15-24-year-olds, and 74% for those between 45 and 54. For those aged over 55, the corresponding figure is just over half (55%).
|% who use mobile for gaming||37%||50%||50%||47%||47%||28%||11%||33%||41%|
37% of smartphone users utilise their mobile phones for online gaming. The most popular groups are those between 16-24 and 25-34, where 50% reported using their devices to game online. Generally, as the age groups increased, the percentage of mobile online gamers decreased. Only 11% of over 65s used their smartphones for online gaming.
When broken down by gender, women were more likely to use their mobile phone to play games compared to men (41% vs 33%). However, men were more likely to play games on a console (39% vs 22%), and computers (29% vs 14%).
Among the gamers surveyed, women were more likely to opt for a game based on puzzles or quizzes (66%), compared to men (39%).
Puzzle, trivia, and word games are the most popular option for the UK adult online population, with 58% opting for this type of game. Just under a third play card games and action/adventure-based games, with a respective 31% and 30%.
Strategy games are the least preferred gaming option for smartphones, at 22%.
When comparing competitive and cooperative online gaming, the figures are fairly similar across mobile and games consoles.
For competitive play, 46% of online gamers prefer mobile devices, compared to 51% for consoles. For cooperative play, the corresponding values are 45% and 50%, respectively.
Males tend to play more online games compared to females, with 54% competitive play and 52% cooperative play compared to 38% for both types of games for females.
The most dominant age group in mobile online gaming is 13-15, with 62% for competitive gaming and 61% for cooperative gaming. Generally, as the age groups increased, the percentage of people playing online games decreased. Just 13% of those aged 55-64 play mobile competitive play, with 14% for cooperative mobile play.
In almost all categories across all age groups, consoles outweigh mobile as the preferred platform to play online games. The two exceptions are those aged 35-44 for competitive play (tied at 46% for both mobile and console) and those aged 25-34 for cooperative play (tied at 57% for both).
Candy Crush Saga is the most popular gaming app on UK mobile devices, having been downloaded by 2.5 million UK adults in February 2022 alone (5% of the online adult population). This game is most popular with women, with 1.7 million female adults downloading the app in February 2022. This made up 68% of the total adults who visited the app, with the average daily audience in this time period exceeding 1.2 million.
By comparison, Pokemon Go sits in second place, with 1.6 million visits in February 2022 (3.1% of the online adult population). An average daily audience of 725,000 is more than double that of third-place Roblox.
Roblox is in third place largely due to its total target reach of 1.5 million (3%). The average daily audience of 322,000 is the eighth largest out of the top 10, with only 8 Ball Pool in ninth position having a smaller average daily audience (313,000).
5G connections are increasingly becoming more common in the UK. In May 2022, 25% of mobile phone users connected to a 5G network, compared to just 8% at the end of 2021.
|Download Speed||Download Speed||Upload Speed||Upload Speed|
|Network type||Theoretical (Mbps)||Typical (Mbps)||Theoretical (Mbps)||Typical (Mbps)|
When comparing mobile phone download speeds, 5G should theoretically provide the fastest service for mobile customers, with 10,000Mbps. However, in reality, it typically only provides 2% of this. Both types of 4G service will only supply 13-14% of their theoretical download speed, whereas 3G download speeds are closest in terms of their typical speed (42%). At only 3Mbps however, these are the slowest speeds available on the market.
When it comes to upload speeds, 5G will provide you with the fastest service (between 12-20 Mbps). However this is only 2% of its full potential, whereas a 4G LTE-Advanced connection will provide slightly less than 5G, at 10Mbps, but this is only 7% of its theoretical speed. Of all networks, 3G HSPA+ is the closest in terms of actual versus theoretical upload speed (13%).
For average download speed, the top 10 areas of the UK are all located in England, predominantly the South East and East Midlands. Wokingham is the fastest location for average download speeds, with over 267 Mbits/s. This is almost 40% faster than Crawley, in tenth place.
The top three fastest places are all in the South East. Oadby and Wigston is the fourth fastest in the UK, and the fastest in the East Midlands, with average download speeds of over 180 Mbits/s.
By contrast, Great Yarmouth is the slowest place in the UK for average download speeds. From the 324 tests conducted in the area, the average speed was just under 19 Mbits/s—more than 14 times slower than the fastest location, Wokingham.
Newry, Mourne and Down is the second slowest location in the UK for download speed and one of four locations from Northern Ireland in the bottom 10. The Scottish Borders, in third with 23.57 Mbit/s, is the only representative from Scotland on this list.
The Isle of Anglesey was the seventh slowest for UK download speed, yet the slowest in Wales with just over 26 Mbit/s on average.
When comparing mobile phone upload speed across the UK, England continues to dominate the top 10. The top three remain the same for upload speeds as they did for download speeds, with Wokingham providing the fastest once again, at 41.55 Mbit/s.
Watford, in the East of England, was in fourth place, with an average upload speed almost half that of Wokingham.
Leicester is the highest place from the East Midlands with 20.82 Mbit/s, narrowly edging the City of London in fifth, with 20.37 Mbit/s.
Conversely, at the other end of the scale, West Devon is the slowest part of the UK for uploading, with average speeds of just 6.37 Mbit/s. Angus, in second place, is the only representative from Scotland, with just over 7 Mbit/s. The Welsh local authority of Denbighshire is in fourth (the only location from Wales in the bottom 10), with Newry, Mourne and Down in ninth as the only local authority from Northern Ireland.
South Norfolk completes the bottom 10 for mobile uploading, with an average speed of 7.94 Mbit/s—five times slower than the fastest location, Wokingham.
|Percentage of mobile connections||How often UK mobiles are able to connect to this network (%)||Rural||Urban|
With an overwhelming 82% of mobile connections, 4G is the most reliable UK network, with a success rate of over 95%. By comparison, 3G occupies 17% of the total mobile network, yet still maintains a success rate of over 93%.
There is very little difference between rural and urban 4G connectivity. However, 3G's success rate is about 1.5% greater in urban areas. This could be explained by the fact that 3G connections are more likely to be on the edge of a network where a 4G network is unavailable.
Note: Percentages refer to the percentage of connection tests recorded as successful while the phone’s screen was on. The data was recorded between 1 January and 31 March 2021. The base size for 5G rural tests is too low to show at this level of study.
At a UK level, there is very little difference in the 4G data service made available by the four major UK network providers. Vodafone is slightly ahead at 96%, however, the other three all recorded levels above 95%. Despite this, 3G connections on the Vodafone network were less likely to succeed than those on EE, with 92.2% compared to 94.2%.
|Share of mobile connections||Success rate||Rural||Urban|
While the screen was inactive, the success rates between different networks saw a considerable decrease. 3G connectivity dropped below 90%, while 4G maintained a high success rate of 93.8%. Between rural and urban areas, 3G dropped to just over 88% in the UK countryside and just over 90% in UK cities. This was 3-4% below that of 4G services in rural and urban areas of the UK.
Across the UK, EE had the highest proportion of 4G connections that were rated as either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ for video streaming (81%); 10% of this was down to their rating of ‘excellent’—more than any other provider.
There was very little difference between O2, Three, and Vodafone for the quality of their mobile video streaming experience, ranging from 72% for O2 and Vodafone and 70% for Three.
|Network||Average response time (ms)|
The time it takes for a network to respond to data requests (such as loading a web page or streaming a programme) can have a significant impact on consumer experience.
In order to qualify for a ‘good experience’, most mobile activities need a network response time (or latency rate) of under 100 milliseconds (ms). For more demanding activities, such as video calling, this drops to 50ms, while other activities, such as web browsing, can perform to a satisfactory standard with a slightly slower response time.
In the UK, average response times for 4G networks are around 42ms, compared to 61ms for 3G and 33ms for 5G. Wi-Fi had the best response time out of all networks, with 19ms (more than twice as fast as 4G).
|4G (ms)||3G (ms)|
Across the country, UK response times for 4G networks were significantly different compared to 3G. 4G was fastest in urban areas compared to rural by 4ms, whereas 3G was faster by 6ms.
Between the four nations of the UK, England had the fastest response times for both 3G and 4G networks, whereas Northern Ireland was the least responsive. On average, 4G in England is 10ms faster than in Northern Ireland, compared to 3G, which was 15ms quicker.
When it comes to average latency speeds, the top 10 fastest areas of the UK can all be found in England. The best area of the UK can be found in the East of England in Watford at 26.8ms. Seven of the top 10 fastest areas in the UK for latency are located in London.
Reading, in third position, is only 0.106ms slower than Barking and Dagenham in second place. Southend-on-Sea is located in ninth, with an average latency speed of over 28.7ms.
By contrast, five of the bottom 10 for average latency speed can be found in Scotland. Na h-Eileanan Siar produced an average lag of 122.8ms (the only location in the UK over 100ms). This happens to be 4.5 times slower than the fastest place in the UK, Watford.
East Lindsay, in the East Midlands, is the only English local authority in the bottom 10, at 99.57ms. Fermanagh and Omagh complete the bottom three. With an average latency speed of 78.54ms, this is also the slowest of the three Northern Ireland local authorities in the bottom 10. The Isle of Anglesey, in seventh, is the only representative from Wales, with speeds of 65.2ms.
|5G (ms)||4G (ms)||3G (ms)|
Between network providers, average response times were significantly faster on EE for 4G connectivity. At 31ms, this was 14ms faster than O2, 15ms faster than Vodafone, and 21ms faster than Three.
Three was marginally quicker than EE for 5G response time (with 28ms and 29ms, respectively). Vodafone was the slowest for 5G connection speed at 46ms.
EE’s 4G connection speed was 10ms faster than O2’s 5G speed and 15ms faster than Vodafone’s.
It is worth noting that the top four providers all returned average response times significantly below the 100ms threshold considered for a ‘good’ experience. These slight differences are likely to be unnoticeable to customers, unless the user utilises their mobile phone for services that require a fast connection speed, such as video calling or online gaming.
|Cell Antenna Operator||Number of cell antennas|
(Source: OpenCellID, ONS)
Of the four major network providers in the UK, EE narrowly edges O2 in regards to the number of cell antennas, by just 434.
In total, these operators have more than 1.6 million cell antennas between them, with almost 60% belonging to either EE or O2, around 23% for Vodafone, and almost 18% for Three.
The City of London ranks as the best place in the UK for cell antennas, with more than 514 per 1,000 people. North Warwickshire, in second, has significantly less than the City of London, with 83 per 1,000. Westminster completes the top three, with an impressive 965 per square kilometre and almost 69 per 1,000 residents.
Interestingly, the local authority of Eden, in Cumbria, is placed sixth in the country for the number of antennas per 1,000 people, yet has the lowest rates per square kilometre in the top 10. With a rate of 1.29 antennas per square kilometre, this is also lower than most locations in the bottom 10 for cell antenna access.
The Orkney Islands is rated the least accessible part of the UK for cell antennas. With only 166 in total, this averages just over seven per 1,000 people and 0.16 per km².
Coming in fourth is Gosport. Despite having a moderately high rate of nearly 34 cell antennas per square kilometre, the rate of just over 10 per 1,000 people reduces its level of accessibility.
North East Lincolnshire has over 1,800 cell antennas, the highest in the bottom 10. However, due to its relative size and population, this reduces the cell antenna rate to 9.6 per km² and 11.6 per 1,000 people, making it the tenth least accessible location in the UK for cell antennas.
When considering the number of cell antennas per square kilometre, the top 10 areas of the UK can all be found in London. Westminster alone has over 18,500 cell antennas, the fourth highest in the UK, resulting in over 860 per km².
The City of London, however, reigns supreme with almost 1,950 per square kilometre. Despite having the least number of antennas in the top 10, the relatively small area of this local authority produces a significant number per km².
Na h-Eileanan Siar, in the Outer Hebrides, has the fewest cell antennas per square kilometre. This remote Scottish local authority has only 366 cell antennas, resulting in 0.13 per km². The Orkney Islands, with the second lowest density of cell antennas for its area, has less than half this amount yet is three times smaller than Na h-Eileanan Siar. Consequently, this results in 0.16 antennas per km².
The Highlands, in third place, has a large number of cell antennas (over 6,300). However, with a surface area of over 26,000km² (the largest of any area in the bottom 10), this averages just 0.24 per square kilometre.
All local authorities in the bottom 10 can be found in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. Powys in seventh is the only Welsh location in this list, with 0.6 cell antennas per km², followed closely by Fermanagh and Omagh in eighth with 0.64 per square kilometre.
When broken down by the four major mobile network providers, Westminster has the most, at just under 1,000, followed by Birmingham with 785. The most EE cell towers can also be found in Westminster (287), however, in this local authority, there are more O2 towers (337). This is the most of any provider across all local authorities in the UK.
The most Three cell towers can be found in Birmingham (193), followed by Leeds (162). Vodafone cell towers are more common in Westminster (255) and The Highlands, with exactly 200.
All four providers appear in the top 10 for Westminster, Birmingham, Buckinghamshire, Leeds, and Cornwall.
Almost 10% of the cell towers in the Highlands belong to EE, O2, and Vodafone, whereas the City of Edinburgh is more popular for O2, Three, and Vodafone.
Some local authorities only appear once in the top 10 for each provider:
West Northamptonshire for EE cell towers (174).
Camden and City of London for O2 (150 and 140, respectively).
Bradford, Sheffield, and Liverpool for Three.
Aberdeenshire for Vodafone cell towers.
|Age||% of children that use mobile phones to go online|
|All ages (3-15)||68%|
Research by Ofcom’s Children’s and Parents’ Media Literacy Tracker shows that smartphones are the second most popular way for children aged 3-15 to access the internet (68%, compared to 72% for tablet devices).
There is, however, significant variation between different age groups. As children get older, they are increasingly likely to use a smartphone to go online, from 39% of 3-4-year-olds to 94% for children between the ages of 12 and 15.
By the age of 10, the majority of children (61%) possess their own smartphones. This will go some way to explain why 71% of this age group use a mobile phone to access the internet.
If your child has a smartphone, our mobile phone safety guide outlines ways you can keep your child safe while using their smartphone.
We polled 2,012 mobile phone users over the age of 16 in the UK to find out what network provider, device, and network they use, as well as their mobile phone usage, habits, and experiences of using a mobile device, and more.
|Other, please specify||4.08%|
(Source: Uswitch, September 2022. 2,000 respondents)
According to our study, EE is the most popular network provider in the UK, with over 22%, followed by O2 (17.5% of respondents) and Vodafone (just over 12%).
The remaining providers each occupied less than 10% of the number of respondents. Over 95% of people surveyed were supplied by one of the top 12 companies in the country.
|Mobile phone brand||Percentage|
|Other, please specify||5.62%|
(Source: Uswitch, September 2022. 2,000 respondents)
Apple and Samsung followed a similar trend to national figures, with almost four in every five people surveyed having one of these two brands for their mobile phone.
Over 44% of people owned an Apple mobile, compared to more than 35% for Samsung. Less than 5% had a Huawei mobile, followed by 3% with a Google device.
|Other, please specify||0.30%|
(Source: Uswitch, September 2022. 2,000 respondents)
Over two-thirds (67%) of people surveyed connected to a 4G network in the UK, followed by almost 20% for 5G. 3G networks were the next most popular, at just over 6%. However, this was almost the same percentage as those who were unsure, or did not know their mobile phone network.
(Source: Uswitch, September 2022. 2,000 respondents)
Of the 2,012 people surveyed, only 2% stated that they received a bad network service from their provider. Over 80% were extremely satisfied, with almost half (47%) stating their level of service was good, and nearly 36% claiming it was excellent. Just under 15% were satisfied with their network and claimed it was an acceptable standard.
|Level of satisfaction||Percentage|
|Neither dissatisfied nor satisfied||13.40%|
(Source: Uswitch, September 2022. 2,000 respondents)
In terms of general service as a whole, 79% of people were either satisfied or very satisfied with their provider. Over 7% were not pleased with the service they received from their mobile network. 13% were on the fence and did not express a positive or negative response.
|Frequency of change||Percentage|
|More often than every year, please specify in months||0.30%|
|Every two years||38.00%|
|Every three years||30.80%|
|More than every three years, please specify in years||3.40%|
|I have never changed my phone||1.50%|
|I only change it when absolutely necessary (e.g. if broken)||18.30%|
(Source: Uswitch, September 2022. 2,000 respondents)
When looking at how often people change their mobile phone, the most common response was every two years (almost 38%), followed by every three years (just under 31%). More than 18% stated that they only change their mobile when it is absolutely necessary, while only 6% change on an annual basis.
|Lower cost of device/plan||51.20%|
|More innovative hardware||22.30%|
|There is no specific reason that would influence my decision to change my phone||20.30%|
|Other, please specify||2.70%|
(Source: Uswitch, September 2022. 2,000 respondents)
Over half of those surveyed (51%) claimed that they only change their device or mobile plan due to being offered a cheaper mobile phone deal, with more than a quarter (26%) are tempted to change due to a promotional bundle offer. One in five consumers claimed they want more innovative hardware, such as upgrading their phone to a more efficient one or being offered a cashback deal on their old device.
20% stated there was no specific reason that would cause them to change their phone.
13% claimed that they would purchase a new mobile phone device or plan by claiming on their warranty or through a recycling scheme.
|Length of time||Percentage||Number of respondents|
|Less than an hour, please specify in minutes||3.70%||75|
|More than 10 hours, please specify in hours||0.50%||9|
(Source: Uswitch, September 2022. 2,000 respondents)
When comparing mobile phone usage, nearly one third (32%) of people spend 3-4 hours a day on their mobile phones, followed by nearly 23% who said they spend between 5-6 hours.
One in five people spend 1-2 hours a day on their devices, with 10% opting for 7-8 hours of screen time.
Less than 4% spend under an hour, compared to 7% who spend between 9-10 hours a day on their phones. Nine people out of the 2,012 surveyed admitted to spending over 10 hours a day on their mobiles, with one respondent claiming up to 15 hours a day of screen time.
|Activity||Percentage||Number of respondents|
|Browsing the internet||70.70%||1,422|
|Checking weather forecasts||57.30%||1,153|
|Reading the news||47.90%||963|
|Practical tasks (e.g. setting an alarm, organising schedules via calendar)||45.60%||917|
|Listening to music/radio||42.90%||864|
|Maps and navigation||40.70%||818|
|None of the above||1.20%||24|
(Source: Uswitch, September 2022. 2,000 respondents)
The most popular activity undertaken on mobile phones by our surveyed audience was sending text messages (78%), followed by just under three-quarters (74%) using their phones to send and receive email communication. Phone calls were the third most popular activity, at 73%.
Over 70% use their devices for browsing the internet, while over two-thirds (67%) would use their mobiles to check social media accounts.
Reading books was the least popular activity completed on mobile phones, at just under 12%. Over a quarter of people would track their health on their devices, using apps to monitor exercise and food consumption. Almost a third of people (32%) would watch TV or videos on their mobile phones.
|Yes, I always refuse access||17.70%|
|Yes, I usually refuse access but not always||38.40%|
|No, I do not refuse access, but I still might do this in the future||23.50%|
|No, I never refuse access and never will||4.60%|
|No, but I did not know this was possible||6.30%|
(Source: Uswitch, September 2022. 2,000 respondents)
Nearly 18% said that they always refuse access to their personal data when installing apps, with over 38% stating they usually did it, but not always.
Almost a quarter (23%) said that they currently don’t, but they might consider it in the future, with less than 5% claiming they never refuse access to their personal data and never will.
6% said they didn’t refuse access because they did not know it was possible.
Ever since the first smartphones hit the mobile phone market in the early 1990s, the number of users has continued to grow. In 2019, this figure surpassed three billion for the first time.
The sale of new smartphones seems to have plateaued at around 1.5 billion units per year, largely due to a growing demand for used and refurbished devices.
In terms of value, it is estimated that the global market for used phones is somewhere between £34-45 billion.
In 2021, smartphones reached almost 6.3 billion units (a 43% increase from 2016). This number is projected to reach over 6.5 billion by the end of 2022 and around 7.7 billion by the end of 2027.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the highly-populated countries of China, India, and the USA have the highest number of smartphone users. There is room for future expansion, given that the penetration rates for these countries are below 70% in China and India, and over 80% in the USA.
The world’s leading mobile phone manufacturers are Samsung and Apple. These two companies alone account for about half of all global smartphone shipments.
In terms of global smartphone sales, this exceeded 1.4 billion in 2021. However, it was 122 million less than the peak of over 1.56 billion in 2018.
In 2016, less than half of the world’s population owned a smart device, yet the global smartphone penetration rate had reached over 78% by 2020
|Country||Number of smartphone users (millions)||Population (millions)|
In 2021, China had more smartphone users than any other country in the world, with over 950 million. India followed in second place, with almost half as many as China (492 million).
Most advanced economies of the world have a smartphone penetration rate of over 70%. This generally applies to European countries and the USA from those countries with the most smartphone users. The USA has the highest penetration rate of smartphones (83%). Nations, such as Nigeria and Pakistan, are located towards the bottom of the list, with around one in five people using a smartphone.
In 2021, a smartphone’s average selling price (ASP) was around £275, a rise of £30 from 2016. Fortunately, the diversity in the mobile phone market now means there are a variety of offers available for consumers, ranging from cheap mobile phone deals to more expensive models, such as the Samsung Galaxy Fold, which retails at around £1,700.
Different brands provide products under contrasting economic circumstances depending on where you are in the world. This means the pricing of mobile phones can vary considerably from region to region. For example, in 2019 in Latin America, 58% of all smartphones sold for $199 (£172) or less compared to 83% of those shipped to Africa.
As a percentage of yearly income, Turkey is the most expensive place in the world to afford an iPhone 14 Pro. With a median income of just over £6,000 a year, the average person will need to save almost 60% of their annual salary in order to purchase the new iPhone 14 Pro. Buying this make and model in Turkey will set you back over £3,600—the most expensive out of all the countries in our study.
In second place is the Philippines, which has the lowest average income out of all 32 countries in our study at just over £2,700 a year. To afford an iPhone 14 Pro, the average person will need to save almost 43% of their yearly salary.
Brazil is the third most expensive country to purchase an iPhone 14 Pro based on salary. With an income of just under £4,900 (the third lowest), the new iPhone 14 Pro will set you back over £1,400 (the third most expensive). This means almost 29% of the average Brazilian’s income is needed to make this purchase.
Incidentally, these three countries are also the most expensive countries in the world to purchase the new Samsung S22 Ultra 256GB, as a percentage of average income. Those in the Philippines will need to save over 40% of their annual take home pay, compared to almost a third (32.5%) in Brazil and just over a quarter (25.4%) for Turkish citizens.
By contrast, Luxembourg is the most affordable place in the world to live in if you want to purchase either the iPhone 14 Pro or Samsung S22 Ultra. With a median income of almost £58,000 per year, this is the highest in our study and over 20 times more than the average Filipino earns. This means you only need to save around 2% of your income to buy either the iPhone 14 Pro or Samsung S22 Ultra..
Taiwan is the second most affordable country for purchasing the iPhone 14 Pro or the Samsung S22 Ultra. With an average income of over £47,000 and relatively low prices of around £1,000 per model, Taiwanese citizens can expect to save around 2.25% of their income in order to buy the iPhone 14 Pro or Samsung S22 Ultra.
The USA is marginally behind in third place, with 2.25% of income required for the iPhone 14 Pro and almost 2.4% for the Samsung S22 Ultra.
In 2021, more smartphones were sold in Greater China than in any other region in the world, at almost 410 million units. In previous years, annual global smartphone sales reached around 1.5 billion, but dropped to around 1.38 billion in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
By 2021, sales had returned to over 1.5 billion again, with 26% coming from Greater China, 24% from Emerging Asian and Pacific countries, and just under 10% from North America.
In 2021, a third of the UK population was just using mobile phones to access the internet. Only 6% solely used their computers for their internet usage, compared to 61% who used a combination of computer and mobile.
By contrast, 80% of India’s population only used their mobile for internet access, compared to just 6% in Germany. Mobiles were also the primary source of internet usage in Brazil. However, for the vast majority of countries, a combination of mobile and computer is the preferred method.
In terms of global market share, Samsung reigns supreme, occupying 23% in Q1 2022 compared to 18% for Apple. Since 2020, Samsung has generally dominated the market with figures around 20%. Although in Q4 2020, it was knocked off its perch by Apple, whose market share reached 21%, while Samsung’s share was just 16%. This only lasted one quarter, as by Q1 2021, Samsung had returned to the top once again.
Globally, Chinese smartphone manufacturer, Xiaomi, remains the third most popular brand, occupying at least 10% of the market between 2020 and 2022. In Q2 2021, its market occupation of 16% overtook Apple for the first time.
The global smartphone market declined by around 7% year-on-year, and 12% quarter-on-quarter, to around 328 million units in Q1 2022. At this point, Samsung sold more smartphones than any other manufacturer, at almost 75 million (the only top five brand to grow since Q4 2021). This accounted for around 20% of all global smartphone shipments.
Since 2010, Samsung has seen its popularity steadily increase. However, this trend was recently reversed in Q4 2021, when Apple sold over 81 million compared to Samsung’s 69 million. This was largely thanks to iPhone 13 series sales.
Over time, Apple’s smartphone sales have been relatively cyclical in nature, and peaked in the fourth quarter each year. In Q4 2021, just under a quarter of all new smartphones sold were iPhones. This is thought to generate revenue for Apple in the region of $192 billion (£167 billion).
2021 also saw Huawei drop out of the top five for the first time in recent years.
Since 2009, Samsung and Apple have remained part of the top five smartphone companies in the world. With new models and attractive deals on Samsung devices, this has made it a consistent forerunner in the global mobile phone market .
In Q1 2022, it accounted for almost a quarter of the market, up from 19% the previous quarter. From the inception of the Samsung Galaxy in 2009, Samsung’s market share has grown from 3% to over 32% in 2012.
By contrast, in 2007, Nokia led the industry with around 50%. However, this dropped to a low of 3% in 2013.
By April 2022, the Apple operating system iOS occupied almost 47% of the UK mobile market, down from just over 50% the previous year.
In Q1 2022, Apple claimed 18% of the smartphone market (5% behind rivals Samsung). Large quarterly fluctuations in revenue are normal for Apple. However, 2017 saw two consecutive quarters in which they generated less than $30 billion (£26 billion) in revenue from the iPhone.
In Q2 2022, Apple generated over $50 billion (£43 billion) in revenue from iPhone sales. This has proven to be one of the biggest successes in the smartphone industry. Since 2007, when it was first introduced to the mobile phone market, Apple has sold more than 1.5 billion smartphone units worldwide. Since then, newer technologies and various iPhone deals have made Apple one of the most desirable brands in the world.
In Q1 2009, iPhone sales contributed to around 25% of Apple’s income. By Q2 2015, this figure was almost 70% (around $40 billion or £35 billion). Between 2010 and 2020, Apple sales quadrupled from around 55 million to over 200 million, with more than 90 million iPhones sold in Q4 2020 alone.
It’s worth noting that these figures are only on the sale of brand new phones, and therefore doesn’t include sales for refurbished iPhones. During 2021, refurbished smartphones saw a 15% year-on-year increase, with Apple leading the way at 40% of the market.
If you’re considering purchasing a refurbished mobile, as opposed to a brand new one, our guide to buying a refurbished phone will provide you with helpful hints and tips to ensure you buy the phone that is right for you.