We’re calling each other less and less. That’s according to the latest Ofcom annual report, which says that for the first time, the number of calls on mobiles and landlines has fallen. Instead, we’re texting more.
We’re also emailing, tweeting and Facebooking each other like nobody’s business, of course. What would poor old Bob Hoskins say, eh?
The Ofcom figures make pretty interesting reading. For the first time, we’re texting more than calling each other. The study says 58 per cent of people texted on a daily basis in 2011, while only 47 per cent actually made a phone call every day.
On average, we each send 50 texts a week. Mobile calls are down by just over 1 per cent, while landline calls have dropped by 10 per cent.
While it’s made the headlines of the non-tech press, it’s hardly surprising. A recent study by O2 and Samsung shed some light on how we use our phones nowadays, and making phone calls was pretty low on the list. It was the fifth most commonly-used feature of a smartphone, according to the study.
The phone part of the phone is dead
Internet use topped Samsung and O2′s poll, with the average smartphone owner spending nearly 25 minutes a day online. Though there was no word on how much of this was spent waiting for pages to load. Social media came second, with 17 minutes. Music and games followed, then phone calls, then watching TV and reading ebooks, followed by using the camera.
(The Samsung and O2 poll was only for smartphones, while Ofcom’s is more general mobile use. But with smartphones becoming ever more popular, I think this poll is almost more revealing than the Ofcom one. According to Ofcom, 39 per cent of UK adults now own a smartphone, which is up 12 per cent on 2010.)
The knock-on effect
With the decline in phone calls comes a loss in profits for the networks of 1.9 per cent. So what does this mean for us consumers? Well we could see some kind of change in the plans offered by the networks, with less of an emphasis on free minutes, and more texts allowed with a higher data allowance. But I think it’ll be a while before we see any noticeable difference.
4G could usher in some real changes, however. Faster speeds could see a huge rise in VOIP calls on mobiles, and that could mean a real sea change in what the networks offer. That’s what the head honcho at Giffgaff reckoned when we spoke to him a few months ago.
4G could spell the end of the cheap deals we’re used to on 3G, as everything – voice calls, internet use, VOIP, texts – is all just data. The networks will have to figure out a way to make sure that someone using half a gigabyte of data a month isn’t charged the same as someone using 70GB. Which would mean some pretty hefty monthly bills.
A new category
Mobiles are so much more than phones nowadays, I wonder if we need a new category of device. At 5.3-inches big, you’d be hard pressed to call the Samsung Galaxy Note a phone. Yet it can make calls, so that’s what Samsung called it. Some proposed the term ‘phablet’, seeing as it’s a mix of a phone and a tablet, but I can’t see that catching on.
And what about Google’s Project Glass, and the imitators that are sure to follow? According to the promo video, you’ll be able to make calls, even while playing a ukelele. So what would you call Project Glass? It’s a piece of wearable tech much more than a traditional phone, yet it can carry out the same tasks, and more.
Mobiles are closer to mini computers than phones nowadays. They’re replacing much of what we traditionally used PCs for, and they’re always with us, so they’re far more practical than a desktop or laptop. In the Ofcom study, 42 per cent of people said their smartphone was the most important device for accessing the internet.
The phone as an afterthought
Think about what you consider when buying a new mobile. Chances are the screen, operating system, camera, storage, and its looks are far more important than call quality. I can’t remember the last review I read that even mentioned how a handset works as a phone. It could be that all mobiles sound pretty much the same, as there aren’t many advances that can be made (or are worth making) in calls. But more likely is that the actual phone part of a mobile is an afterthought.
I can see why it’s happening, too. Calling someone is invasive. You’re demanding their attention right there and then. Ok it’s more personal, but it’s also less convenient, and often takes longer. And how much correspondence really needs the personal touch? As a rule, I know something’s important if someone calls about it, and I try to practice the same; if it can wait, I’ll use email.
So what should we call mobiles instead? Mobile devices? Bit boring. Portable computers? Meh. Pocket rockets? Well it’s got a ring to it.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Image credit: Flickr