It was only a matter of time, but smartphones are now officially the UK’s most popular internet-connected device. For the first time, more people are choosing smartphones to get online than laptops, according to stats published today in Ofcom’s annual Communications Market Report. Smartphones are now considered the most important way of staying connected by 33 percent of Brits, with 30 percent preferring their laptops. That’s a significant change from last year, when laptops were favoured by 40 percent of people and smartphones by only 22 percent. This coincides with smartphones also becoming the most widely owned web-connected device, with a presence in 66 percent of households compared with a 65 percent figure for laptops. Shipments of PCs have been declining for many years as mobile devices have become increasingly popular windows onto the web, and in the UK, tablet ownership is growing faster than anything else. In another first, Ofcom notes that over half of UK households (54 percent, to be exact) now have at least slate for the family to poke at.
The fact Brits now prefer to use their smartphones to get online can only have been helped by the widening availability of speedy 4G networks over the past year. The increase in the total 4G mobile subscriber base during 2014 is bordering on insane, going from 2.7 million to a whopping 23.6 million subscriptions during the 12-month period. That jump is partly down to Three launching its LTE services and putting every customer on its 4G network as standard, while EE, Vodafone and O2 were also slowly retiring legacy 3G tariffs to shift focus onto their 4G services. MVNOs, too, have been able to offer 4G data to more price-conscious consumers as the major carriers continue to build out LTE coverage. Of course, a proportion of those 23.6 million subscribers will be on 4G contracts by default and might not actually take advantage of LTE speeds, but there’s no arguing that 2014 was the year 4G took off.
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