Only 1 out of every 3 people in the United Kingdom owned a smartphone in 2011. Two years later, this smartphone penetration figure had grown to in excess of 65%. This exponential rate of growth of mobile, and consequently, development and usage of apps has sustained – and by the end of 2018, it has been projected that the smartphone usage percentage would touch, or at least be very close to, 100%. It is certainly worth taking a note of the latest trends and stats from the domain of mobile and app development in UK – a place where the smartphone revolution is on in full flow:
- Android still leads, but iOS is catching up – This has got a lot to do with the tendency of the average users in the UK to REPLACE their old phones, instead of PURCHASING their first phone (i.e., replacement behaviour is more prominent than adoption behaviour). Although Google’s mobile platform still owns well over 54% market share – the figure is down by almost 5% from 2014. Those who develop iPhone apps in UK can, on the other hand, take heart from the fact that the market share of Apple iOS has grown from around 30% to a shade under 36% over the last year. It will be fascinating to see whether Android Marshmallow (if and when it becomes available to everyone) has an effect on this trend.
- 4G usage is on the rise – There are four major 4G mobile broadband service providers in the UK (Vodafone, Three, O2 and EE) – and collectively, they provide services to almost 90% of the entire geographical area. More interestingly, 43% of 4G users can actually take their pick from all the four service providers. Surveys conducted by British research agencies and mobile app companies indicate that the usage of 4G services is high, and gaining further momentum, in all fields – right from video and TV-show streaming (58%) and mobile banking (56%), to online shopping (54%) and even instant messaging (64%). Not surprisingly, a host of new 4G-supported IM apps are being launched by developers every quarter.
- Smartphone – Man’s most faithful companion – At least that is what the situation is shaping up like in the UK. Glancing at the smartphone screen is something that people here do very frequently, and at practically any place. Almost 50% people keep looking at their phone even while having a chat with friends, well over 60% professionals check their handsets while at work, and approximately 33% users are in the habit using mobile apps and games while eating out. 2 out of every 3 commuters in public transports in the UK can be seen fiddling with their smart devices. Worryingly, more than 20% of youths (in the 18-24 age group) use their phones even when they are crossing roads. Now that’s a distraction that needs to go away!
- Interest in wearable technology is growing – This is an encouraging trend for experts who are into developing apps for Apple Watch and/or other wearable devices in the UK. Already, 22% of the adult population here own at least one smartwatch, and 40% people are willing to purchase a wearable device that monitors personal health and fitness. A quarter of the existing iPhone-users in the United Kingdom plan to buy Apple Watch soon enough – and interest about the latest Android wearables is also strong. App development for wearables in UK is something that has a lot of potential.
- Smartphones have already moved ahead of desktops and laptops – Yet another reason behind the growing popularity of development of mobile applications in UK. Mobile is currently the preferred medium to access the internet, with desktop lagging well behind (56% vs 44%). The mobile vs laptop fight is a lot closer, but here too, the former has the edge (33% vs 30%). These stats become all the more remarkable when it is considered that, a whopping 40% people preferred using their laptops to log on to the internet in 2014, with mobile internet users making up only a tip over 21% of the population. UK has well and truly ‘gone mobile’ in 2015 – and this shift is likely to become more significant over the next couple of years.
- The value of the mobile industry is at an all-time high – 250 billion Pounds – that’s what the overall revenue from the mobile market in UK in 2015 is (approximately). As already highlighted earlier, replacement behaviour among smartphone users here is growing – and that has led makers to shorten their mobile development cycles and implement innovative new features in the latest flagship phones. Mobile app developers in United Kingdom, on their part, have significantly picked up pace in releasing new applications in the UK App Store. This year, there has already been almost 7 million trade-ins of flagship smartphones in the UK. The value of these transactions comes out to more than 900 million Pounds.
- People prefer integrated smart devices – Keeping smart devices in sync is something that the average UK user prefers. According to a recent survey, almost 45% respondents stated that they planned to have the same OS on their desktops/laptops as what was present on their smartphones (e.g., an iPhone user is more likely to go for a Mac system). Smart home systems have also started catching the fancy among early adopters over here, and nearly 30% people are more than willing to spend extra amounts to stream digital content on their television. tvOS has recently released, and this trend suggests that devices like Apple TV has a lot of potential in UK.
- The ‘Selfie Revolution’ – The younger generation of smartphone users here has been bitten bitten by the ‘selfie bug’, big time. 9 out of 10 youngsters in the 16-23 age range snap selfies and groupfies on a regular basis. Even among adults, the habit of taking selfies is growing (the overall number of selfies clicked in the UK in 2015 is in excess of 1.3 million). Smartphones are gradually replacing digital cameras here, with only 23% grown-ups still using cameras as their first-choice device to click photos. UK mobile app companies are also coming up with a slew of new photo-based applications – and that is bolstering this trend further.
- Tablets have not stalled in UK – This is an interesting find. Prior to the release of the new iPad Pro and iPad Mini 4, tablet sales (Apple and Android) had stagnated in nearly every country with high smartphone-penetration figures. This has not been the case in Britain though, with tablet access and usage jumping from 16% to 60% in 2012-15 period (in comparison, the 52% to 76% rise of smartphone usage seems modest). As a direct result, iPad app developers in UK have not experienced any significant slowdown in their business. What has really stalled is the use of laptops – with a measly 6% increase in the last four years.
- The total smartphone sales – Almost 33 million new smartphones have already been shipped in the UK in 2015. At a more micro-level, nearly 1250000 new flagship handsets are bought and sold every fortnight. Interestingly, while people do tend to replace their phones relatively frequently, the old models are not generally not disposed off. About 45% people keep their old phone as a spare, while 20% users hand down their previous models to their family members. Only 7% smartphone users destroyed their old phones in 2015.
- VoLTE is likely to arrive in a big way – The volume of 4G LTE users in the UK are increasing fast, paving the way for the launch of VoLTE services (which offer improved connectivity, HQ voice and audio features, and voice-to-video switching capabilities) by the next year. Voice-based mobile app development in UK is also growing more efficient – with instances of call drops, screen freezes and other such problems getting reduced significantly.
- UK has not yet got used to ‘Internet of Things’ – Telecom service providers and iOS/Android app developers in the United Kingdom highlight that there is a lot of opportunity for the concept of ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) to grow here. Gaming consoles and Smart TV sets (with 29% and 24% of the UK population having access to them respectively) are comfortably the two most popular types of connected devices. Other components of IoT, like smart cars (2%), wireless speakers (8%), and smart thermostat systems (2%) are yet to find a wide user base over here.
- Engagement levels are increasing fast – In 2005, people in the UK spent a grand total of less than 10 hours every week on the World Wide Web. Cut to 2015, and this duration of weekly internet usage has jumped to nearly 21 hours (a more than 100% increase). The rapid pace of smartphone and tablet-penetration in the country has helped in this – with people now being able to log in from practically anywhere. The fact that more time is being spent using smart devices has made it imperative for app developers in UK to make their software more engaging than ever before. There is no space for non-user-friendly apps, there are simply too many of better alternatives available.
- Which categories of apps are downloaded the most? – There is no clear-cut favourite app category among the Britons – with at least 4 categories having roughly similar download percentages in 2015. Business apps have the slightest of edges, and they are closely followed by mobile educational applications for kids, utility software, and gaming apps (all of them with 27%-31% download share). Enterprise apps are fairly popular in the UK as well, while 1 out of every 5 downloads from the App Store is an entertainment app.
- Here’s looking at you, smartphone! – Taken together, the number of times smartphone users glance at their handsets in a single day is in excess of one billion. 38% of users take a look at their smartphones within 2-5 minutes of going to sleep, while 47% people check their devices within 5 minutes of waking up. 14% of the ‘smartphone population’ in the 18-24 age bracket look at their phones at least a 100 times in a day.
There are more than 8000 mobile app companies in UK at present, with nearly 400000 people operating as iOS or Android developers. App development in Britain is expected to become a 30+ billion Pound industry by 2025 – and it won’t be surprising if that figure is scaled a few years earlier.
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