Press releases

Smartphone ownership peaks as one in three check their phones in the middle of the night

26 September 2016

  • Survey of 4,000 reveals extent of UK mobile owners’ obsession with their devices;
  • 81% - 37 million people - own or have access to a smartphone, however, growth is slowing as we enter the ‘peak smartphone’ era;
  • A third of people in the UK admit to nocturnal phone use, half 18-24 year olds;
  • For the first time, the majority of mobile phone connections are over 4G, with 54% of consumers using the network

One in three UK adults - and half of 18-24 year olds - check their phones in the middle of the night, according to the latest research from Deloitte, the business advisory firm. More than 15 million people are disrupting their sleep patterns, with 32% of them checking for messages and more than a sixth replying to them.

The sixth annual Mobile Consumer Survey, There’s no place like phone, which analyses the mobile usage habits of more than 4,000 UK consumers, reveals that the UK public has never been more addicted to smartphones. As of June 2016, four out of five UK adults (81%) have a smartphone, rising to 90% of 18-24 year olds.

The UK’s love of smartphones
In addition to their nocturnal habits, one in ten smartphone owners instinctively reach for their phone as soon as they wake up – and not just to turn off their alarm. A third reach for their phones within five minutes of waking, and more than half within a quarter of an hour. Messages (29%) are the first thing consumers check on their smartphones in the morning, followed by personal emails (19%) and social networks (15%).

The research also reveals that smartphone usage is increasingly affecting social behaviour. A third of 18-24 year-olds use their devices ‘always’ or ‘very often’ when meeting friends, shopping or watching television. More than one in ten similarly use their phones when eating at home or out at a restaurant.

Significantly, a third (33%) of all 18-24 year olds noted that their excessive use of smartphones had caused arguments with their partners. For 25-34 year olds the proportion of phone-related acrimony was even higher, at 38%.

Paul Lee, head of technology, media and telecommunications research at Deloitte, comments: “For the first time we have captured data on the UK population’s nocturnal smartphone habits and have found that the smartphone is truly a 24/7 device, particularly among younger age groups.

“Smartphones are personal devices, but their usage impacts those around them. As with most emerging technology, consumers will need to learn how best to run their lives with smartphones, as opposed to having their lives run by their devices.”

Smartphones plateauing
Deloitte’s research has also found that, for the first time, smartphone ownership (81%) has overtaken laptop penetration (76%), confirming its status as the must-have portable device. This is followed by tablets (63%) and eReaders (29%), with fitness bands and smart watches owned by just nine and four per cent of the UK respectively.

However, despite the popularity of the smartphone, growth is slowing. Smartphone penetration rose by just seven per cent in the year to June 2016, compared to nine per cent in 2015, 13% in 2014 and 19% in 2013. Of the 12% of adults that own a dumb or feature phone, only a fifth intend to trade up to a smartphone in the next 12 months.

Lee adds: “It is clear from our research that we are reaching an age of ‘peak smartphone’. Given the market saturation, in the next 12 months, we expect smartphone penetration to rise modestly, perhaps by no more than two or four percentage points.

“However, smartphones will not suffer the same fate as tablets. The replacement market is likely to remain healthy, and given the sizeable base of existing owners, smartphone sales are likely to remain in the tens of millions for the foreseeable future.”

Bandwidth on the run - 4G usage surges
According to Deloitte’s research, 4G adoption has leapt in the last year to 54% of all smartphone owners, up from 25% in 2015. This means that 4G is now the dominant mobile network, and is likely to grow strongly over the next year.

Ed Marsden, lead telecoms partner at Deloitte, comments: “Whether sharing photos, ordering at a restaurant or streaming the latest box-set, consumers are using their smartphones as a tool for almost every facet of their life. This is why we have seen such a surge in 4G subscribers: there has never been a greater need for fast, uninterrupted connectivity. The speed of mobile networks means that consumers’ reliance on WiFi will reduce until fixed-line network speeds improve significantly.

“High 4G adoption is good news for both mobile carriers and network operators. Faster connectivity should encourage greater data consumption; the telecommunications industry needs to make it as easy as possible for smartphone owners to access data.”

Prints charming - putting a finger on mobile security
According to Deloitte’s research, a fifth (21%) of all smartphone users in the UK are now using their fingerprints for a range of authentication-based applications, from unlocking their phones to approving transactions. Three-quarters (76%) of those that have a fingerprint scanner, use it. It is by far the most popular biometric identifier used by smartphone owners, dwarfing the 2% that use either voice or facial recognition.

Marsden adds: “The fingerprint has proven to be the most popular form of biometric security on smartphones. Not only is it fast, taking a fraction of the time required to type a password, but it is also unforgettable and inconspicuous for the user.

“The growth of fingerprint security is important. As fingerprint security becomes more common, consumers will find it easier - and safer - to pay for goods and services using their smartphones.”


Notes to editors

About the Mobile Consumer Survey 2016
There’s no place like phone is the UK data cut of Deloitte’s Global Mobile Consumer Survey, a multi-country study of mobile phone users around the world. The 2016 study comprises of 53,000 respondents across 31 countries and five continents.
Data cited in this report are based on a nationally representative sample of 4,000 UK consumers aged 18-75. The sample follows a country specific quota on age, gender, region, working and socio-economic status. Fieldwork took place during May to June 2016 and was carried out online by Ipsos MORI, an independent research firm, based on a question set provided by Deloitte. For more information visit

About Deloitte
In this press release references to Deloitte are references to Deloitte LLP, which is among the country's leading professional services firms.

Deloitte LLP is the United Kingdom member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”), a UK private company limited by guarantee, whose member firms are legally separate and independent entities. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

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

Member of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

George Parrett
Deloitte LLP
+44 (0) 20 7007 7285

Did you find this useful?