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Australians ‘deepen love affair’ with smartphones: survey Featured

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, according to newly published research.

According to the 2018 Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey, as smartphones “tighten their grip on our everyday lives”, almost a quarter of all Australians are already watching live TV shows on their phones each week.

And the survey also found that, with 5G around the corner, world trends suggest the smartphone could rival the traditional TV set for our viewing attention.

Deloitte said Australians were also trading passwords for fingerprints, with a 23% lift in the number taking up biometric fingerprint authentication on their phones. This includes a 53% rise in the number using fingerprint technology to authorise payments and purchases, and a 67% increase 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’,” Deloitte noted.

According to Deloitte, the 2018 survey suggests that Australia 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 said.

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,” Corbett said.

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

And, the survey also revealed that 39% of Australians think they use their phones too often, and of these 26% are successful in limiting their use, while 34% are trying, but not succeeding.

According to Deloitte, 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 (2 hourrs 39 minutes per day) than their TVs (2 hours 32 minutes per day).

Thirty-nine per cent of Australian users surveyed 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 — was 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, while 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.
  • Twenty-three percent of smartphone users watch live TV each week (19% in 2017, 6% in 2016).
  • Twenty-three percent of smartphone users stream films or TV shows each week (18% in 2017).
  • Nineteen percent 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 for whom the figure is 78%.
  • At the same time 52% of all respondents "almost always" fail to read privacy terms and conditions, while 50% do not clear their browsing histories and 43% do not adjust privacy settings on social media sites.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

 

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