Press releases

Lockdown purchasing sparks fastest-ever rise in UK technology ownership

17 August 2021

  • A record 19.2 million devices were bought by UK consumers in the year to July 2021 – more than double the number bought in the year to May 2020 (9.3 million);
  • This marks the fastest-ever rise in technology adoption in the ten years that Deloitte has been surveying digital device ownership in the UK;
  • Wearable devices saw the biggest increase in ownership: 40% of consumers now have access to a smartwatch or fitness band, up from 31% in 2020;
  • 76% have access to an SVOD service, up from 65% in 2020, with 57% of those aged 65-75 now having a login to a video streaming subscription, up from 36% in 2020;
  • Deloitte’s Digital Consumer Trends research of 4,160 consumers reveals UK digital device ownership and media consumption habits.

More than 19.2 million digital devices were bought in the year to July 2021, marking the fastest-ever rise in technology adoption in the ten years that Deloitte has been surveying digital device ownership in the UK.

According to new research from Deloitte’s forthcoming Digital Consumer Trends 2021 report, the number of devices bought in the year to July 2021 was more than double the number of devices bought in the year to May 2020 (9.3 million).

The findings show that, on average, UK consumers bought 1.6 million new devices every month over the past year, with each consumer now having access to 5.4 different digital devices. This is 8% higher than in 2020, when consumers had access to five devices on average. Prior to 2020, device ownership had been growing steadily at an average 5% year-on-year between 2016 and 2021*.

Wearable devices – such as smartwatches and fitness bands – have seen the sharpest rise in ownership over the past year, with 40% of consumers now having access to these devices, up from 31% in 2020, including 23% now having access to a smart watch (14% in 2020). Meanwhile, access to voice-assisted speakers also rose from 29% to 35% in the past year, while smart TV ownership grew from 59% to 65%.

Smartphones (owned by 92%) and laptops (accessible to 79%) continue to be the most popular digital devices owned by UK consumers, however ownership has long-since hit a plateau.

Paul Lee, global head of technology, media and telecommunications research at Deloitte, said: “Lockdowns left many households with more time to devote to devices and more savings to buy new technology. However, this is likely to have been a one-off surge in device acquisition. Device ownership is unlikely to grow as fast over the next year. While technology acquisition rates may slow, consumer dependence on technology will continue to deepen, along with demand for new functionalities and designs which is likely to continue driving device ownership across the UK.”

Fickle streamers chop, change and churn SVOD subscriptions

Three in four (76%) consumers now have access to an SVOD service, up from 65% in 2020. Two-thirds (67%) of subscribers have access to more than one service, with the average SVOD subscriber having access to 2.24 platforms.

However, the data underlines a fickle streaming audience.

Overall, 15% of subscribers have cancelled a video streaming service subscription over the past year, while 25% have subscribed to a new video streaming service. One in ten (11%) have re-subscribed to a service that they had already cancelled.

Among those who have cancelled a subscription, the leading cause was that consumers didn’t use the subscription enough (31%), while 16% said they only needed access to the platform temporarily or for a season. One in ten (10%) said that they had too many subscriptions to manage.

Of those who cancelled a video streaming service, 23% did so the same day they decided to end their subscription. An additional 22% did it within the week.

Helen Rees, a director in Deloitte’s technology, media and telecommunications practice, added: “Households have more choice than ever before, with additional services likely to launch over the next year. Platforms’ challenge will be to maintain loyalty among an increasingly fickle audience, who can subscribe – or leave - with a single click. Households are taking a pick-n-mix approach to streaming: binging on boxsets until they’ve watched all they want to see and then switching onto another platform’s selection. To keep subscribers, platforms have to offer a perpetual stream of must-watch content, while growing the diversity of their offering both in terms of genre, length and cast, as well as differentiating through the offer of additional services such as gaming or podcasts.”

Rise of the silver streamers

The proportion of consumers aged 65-75 with access to a video streaming subscription has grown by 19 percentage-points in the past year. Almost three in five (57%) of consumers in this age bracket now have an SVOD subscription, compared to just 36% in 2020. What’s more, this age group are half as likely on average to have cancelled their subscription in the past year.

Rees added: “Streaming subscription growth is slowing among every age group other than those aged over 65, offering a new and loyal audience for platforms to target. This should be a clear focus for streaming platforms in the year ahead as they look to set themselves apart in a crowded market. Platforms that invest in quality content and stories that strike a chord with older audiences will reap the rewards.”

Consumers aged 65-75 have become fervent adopters of tech in the past 12 months. Two in three (66%) consumers aged 65-75 now have access to a smart TV, up from 51% in 2020. Meanwhile, laptop access among this age group has risen from 68% to 75%, while access to portable games players and smart watches has doubled, from 4% to 8%

Lee concluded: “We’ve seen over the past year the vital role technology plays in keeping households connected and communities supported. Devices have moved from a frivolity to a necessity by keeping individuals entertained, informed and connected over a year that has been bleak and lonely for many.”


Notes to Editors

*Figures on device access includes analysis of consumer access to smartphone, laptop, tablet, desktop, e-Reader, fitness band, portable games player, smart watch, standard mobile phone, VR headset, smart TV, games console and voice assisted speaker devices among 18-75 year olds.

This research is based on the UK cut of Deloitte’s Digital Consumer Trends, a multi-country study of mobile phone users around the world. The 2021 study comprises approximately 33,150 respondents across 20 countries and five continents.

Data cited in this report are based on a nationally representative sample of 4,160 UK consumers aged 16-75. The sample follows a country specific quota on age, gender, region and socio-economic status. Fieldwork took place between 23rd June and 15th July 2021 and was carried out online by Ipsos MORI, an independent research firm, based on a question set provided by Deloitte.

About Deloitte

In this press release references to “Deloitte” are references to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”) a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

Deloitte LLP is a subsidiary of Deloitte NSE LLP, which is a member firm of DTTL, and is among the UK's leading professional services firms.

The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

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