Australia’s deepening love affair with its smartphones

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Australia’s deepening love affair with its smartphones

Deloitte’s 2018 Mobile Consumer Survey looks at why ‘breaking up’ is hard to do

3 DECEMBER 2018: Australians are holding onto their mobile phones for longer, using more data, watching more TV  ‘in the hand’, and are, increasingly, being influenced by digital giants like Google, Amazon and Apple as smartphones tighten their grip on our every-day lives.

The 2018 Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey shows almost a quarter of all Australians are already watching live TV shows on their phones each week, and with 5G around the corner, world trends suggest the smartphone could rival the traditional TV set for our viewing attention.

We are also trading passwords for fingerprints, with a 23% lift in the number of Australians taking up biometric fingerprint authentication on their phones. This includes a 53% lift in the number using fingerprint technology to authorise payments and purchases, and a 67% lift in the number using fingerprint technology to authorise money transfers to other people.

While the overall number of people using their mobile phones for in-store transactions remains stable at 26%, the further integration of fingerprint technology could be the key to greater ‘phone-uptake’ at the cash register by offering increased security with the convenience of multiple cards in one smartphone ‘wallet’.

The 2018 Deloitte survey suggests that we may have hit saturation point in terms of market penetration of smartphones, with 89% of Australians (88% in 2017) now owning one.

While we seem prepared to pay more for handsets (as much as the cost of a laptop) when we do buy them, the number of people with new phones (less than 18 months old) has fallen to 58% from 61% in 2016 and more of us have older phones (aged between 18-30 months).

Deloitte Partner and National Telecommunications lead, Peter Corbett, said this did not mean our obsession with the smartphone was wavering in any way.

“Over the last 10 years, the story of mobility has focused on access - the proportion of phone users is now unlikely to rise significantly,” Corbett said.

“What we are seeing now is a shift to understanding the many ways we can interact with mobile technology and the influence it has on human behaviours. The extent to which smartphones occupy our lives is growing, and overseas comparisons suggest we are far from peak usage.

“The smartphone is becoming even more central to the way we work (70% of us use smartphones for work, while 90% of businesses rank a connected work place in their top priorities), the way we access entertainment and how we carry out our daily lives.

“A consumer’s choice of phone impacts their access to the cloud, the expanding world of voice assistants, streaming services, smart home technologies, the ways people pay for goods and services, and even the ways they monitor their daily health.

“The impact of replacing a handset can now have significant influence on the services we access, which is another reason people are changing phones less often.”

The survey notes third party analysis that Apple’s services division grew by 30% to May 18 (US $9.2bn) while its phone sales grew by only 3%.

Thirty-nine percent of Australians think they use their phones too often. Of these 26% are successful in limiting their use, while 34% are trying but not succeeding.

The temptations to reach for the phone are only going to get stronger as faster download speeds and increased reliability from 5G networks could see Australia move closer to experiences in China where researchers have indicated that the average Chinese consumer spends more time watching content on their smartphones (2hrs 39 minutes per day) than their TVs (2hrs 32 minutes per day). Thirty-nine per cent of Australian users say they would switch to a 5G network as soon as it was available, or upon hearing good reports about its performance.

Deloitte consulting partner Kate Huggins said that the rise of ‘telco-tainment’, the bundling of video TV streaming and entertainment services with phone contracts, unlimited data plans, and mobile enabled streaming services, is encouraging Australians to watch more long-form video content on their phones.

“There is a lot more room for growth here – streaming services continue to grow their subscriber bases, unlimited plans have only just hit the market, and 5G is around the corner; simultaneous streaming within the home will be an important use case,” Huggins said.

“We are also starting to see sports content that was historically blacked out for streaming become available – for example Channel Nine acquired the digital rights to the NRL in 2018 and included the rights to live stream three games each week of the regular season, including the Grand Final.

“All of which is going to increase our thirst for data. But while our smartphones themselves are achieving luxury status and pricing to match, the data which is their lifeblood is increasingly commoditised. Pricing and business models will be one of the most vexing areas for telcos in the year to come.”                       

The survey shows consumers already upgrading to larger data plans with 42% opting for 5GB or more, compared to 29% in 2017. Just 4% of mobile consumers are on unlimited data plans.

Other key survey findings:

  • Only 22% of smartphone users regard their existing mobile network as ‘always good enough’ during commutes
  • 23% of smartphone users watch live TV each week (19% in 2017, 6% in 2016)
  • 23% of smartphone users stream films or TV shows each week (18% in 2017)
  • 19% of smartphone users watch catch-up TV (15% in 2017)
  • More of us are buying our phones outright, despite rising prices for new technologies. Only 53% of iPhone X purchasers in 2018 bought phones through plans compared with 63% of iPhone 7 customers in 2017. Samsung’s S9 release drew a similar response with 69% purchasing through contracts in 2018, compared with 81% for the S8 the previous year
  • More Australians (58%) are choosing to purchase their smartphones in-store, predominantly from mobile operators or electronic retailers (54% in 2017) where they can receive user advice
  • Voice technology is also becoming louder, of the 42% of users aware of voice capabilities on their phones, 54% now use the function each week
  • An overwhelming majority of Australians (84%) remain concerned about how companies use, store and share their personal data and 76% (a 15% increase from 2017) of smartphone users believe that companies share their personal data with third parties all or most of the time
  • Eighteen to twenty-four year olds are becoming increasingly aware of privacy risks with  67% (up from 55% in 2017) believing companies share their data with third parties all or most of the time, but they are not as aware as over 45s where the figure is 78%
  • At the same time 52% of all respondents ‘almost always’ fail to read privacy terms and conditions, 50% do not clear their browsing histories and 43% do not adjusting privacy settings on social media sites.
About the survey
  • The Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey 2018 is in its fifth year. It is a multi-country study of smartphone users with 54,150 participants across 35 countries
  • The Australian cut of the survey is based on a nationally representative sample of over 2000 consumers aged 18 – 75 and was conducted during June 2018.

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