UK mobile usage patterns

Taking and sending photographs were the two most popular non-core mobile services among UK users in 2008, according to data supplied exclusively to telecoms.com from market research specialist TNS.

65 per cent of UK mobile users have taken photographs with their handsets, and 44 per cent have then sent the files to other users, a year on year increase of 33 per cent and 63 per cent respectively. While other services are less widely used, growth in their popularity is strong. Only 14 per cent of users surveyed have sent video files, but this is a 75 per cent increase on the number for 2007.

The data come from TNS’ ComTech research project, which sees 170,000 users in the UK, Spain, Germany, Italy and France interviewed about their usage of mobile and fixed telephony, broadband and TV. The UK-the first market for which TNS has published results-has the largest sample user base, with 15,000 customers aged 12 and above interviewed during 2008.

Top ten most popular mobile services in the UK 2008
Service Penetration 2008 position 2007 position Year on year growth
Taking pictures 66% 1 1 +33%
Sending pictures 44% 2 2 +63%
Using Bluetooth 36% 3 Not ranked n/a
Playing games 35% 4 4 +59%
Listening to music 31% 5 6 +72%
Making videos 31% 6 3 +24%
Connected phone to computer 25% 7 Not ranked n/a
Internet browsing 24% 8 5 +33%
FM radio 22% 9 7 +57%
Sending videos 14% 10 10 +75%

The 12 – 18 year old age group was the most voracious user of all services, apart from internet browsing, which proved more popular with both the 19 – 24 year old and 25 – 34 year old demographics. While the oldest group, 55 and above was unsurprisingly the lowest using of all demographics, penetration of some services was reasonable. 44 per cent of users in this age range had taken photos with their handsets and 25 per cent had sent them.

Penetration among male and female users was very close for some services, with females marginally more likely to take and send photographs and to make videos. Male users were slightly more inclined to use Bluetooth, play games and listen to music. The popularity of internet browsing and email was markedly higher among males than females.

Nokia was the handset vendor of choice among users surveyed, with the N95 in the top two or three handsets for all services. Sony Ericsson’s K800i was also popular, and Apple’s iPhone making an appearance, as might be expected, in the categories of internet browsing, music and game downloading (distinct from music and game playing) and email usage. With 12.4 per cent of users surveyed having downloaded music directly to their handset, 12.2 per cent having downloaded a game and 11.5 per cent of customers having used mobile email, these services did not rank inside the top ten.

Highest spending customers in the UK during 2008 by favourite service
Prepay Postpay
Service ARPU Service ARPU
Podcasts £24.71 Wifi usage £42.07
Text alerts £21.59 GPS £41.43
Mobile TV £21.23 Maps £41.40
Video calls £20.82 Podcasts £41.36
Video download £20.36 Social networking £40.19

Because of the relatively high service usage among the 12 – 18 year old customers, prepaid was the dominant payment method for all services apart from browsing the internet, sending video messages and mobile email. But the prepay/postpay split did not match the overall market for any service, with a comparatively higher popularity of services among postpay users surveyed. The highest spending prepay users-generating average monthly revenues of £24.71-were those who listened to podcasts, while the corresponding group from the postpay sector-generating average monthly revenues of £42.07-were those who used their handsets to access wifi coverage.














  1. Avatar iPhone Developers 28/04/2009 @ 5:57 pm

    Some great stats there! Interesting to see correlation between Highest spending customers and “podcast services” – Podcasters should take something away from that!

  2. Avatar Fran 07/05/2009 @ 10:46 am

    Can anyone explain the link between WiFi & GPS usage adn ARPU from an Mobile Network Operators point of view? Is this simply the total ARPU for users who see wifi/gps as useful or ARPU to do with the the use of WiFi and GPS?

    • Avatar paul 07/05/2009 @ 3:35 pm

      It’s the total ARPU (including voice, text and other services) of people who regularly use WiFi and GPS services (although part of that revenue is very likely to be coming from usage of WiFi and GPS.)

  3. Avatar Anser Rizvi 07/05/2009 @ 4:08 pm

    “part of that revenue is very likely to be coming from usage of WiFi and GPS”

    Of all the services, surely WiFi and GPS are the least likely to be generating revenue for MNOs!

    I think it is more feasible to say that users of WiFi and GPS (and the other services listed) are more likely to be heavy users of mobile services generally and therefore bigger spenders.

    • Avatar paul 07/05/2009 @ 5:26 pm

      correct – although GPS usage may be indirectly generating revenue if it uses a web based mapping system.

  4. Pingback: Bluetooth tops the service poll for UK phone users | Creative Connectivity

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