In Brief

Phone calls losing ground to chat apps

Number of minutes Brits spend talking on mobiles drops by 2.5 billion

The amount of time British people spend talking on their mobile phones has dropped for the first time since data collection began six years ago.

According to a report by Ofcom, which has been tracking Britain’s love affair with smartphones since 2012, “total outgoing mobile call volumes dropped by 2.5 billion minutes last year to 148.6 billion minutes”, The Daily Telegraph reports.

However, overall use of smartphones continues to climb. According to self-reported estimates by participants in the study, we check our phones an average of once every 12 minutes.

More than three-quarters of UK adults now own a smartphone, and 72% use it to access the internet, up from 66% last year.

In fact, the report highlights that the average Brit now spends the equivalent of a day online every week - more than double the time spent online in 2011 - and nearly two-thirds of our internet use now takes place on smartphones.

The discrepancy suggests that the shrinking time spent on voice calls represents a “fundamental change” in how phones are used rather than a diminishing interest in smartphones, says the report.

Respondents themselves appeared wary that connectivity could be killing conversation. More than half agreed that “connected devices interrupt face-to-face conversations with family and friends”, the BBC reports.

“When I talk to young people as part of my research very few of them ever use their phones to call,” Dr Joanne Orlando, researcher of digital lifestyles at Western Sydney University told the Telegraph.

However, she cautioned against premature panic that young people could be losing the art of conversation as they rely increasingly on text and image-based messaging services like WhatsApp.

“Conversation is just shifting to take into account the various ways technology can be used to enhance it,” she said. For instance, Snapchat and Instagram posts are “frequently used as talking points when we see each other face to face”.

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