2 March 2015, Mobile World Congress, Barcelona – Mobile has become a force for good since its inception, helping 83% of us stay in touch with family according to a new report, ‘The rise of mobile in a connected society’, published today by O2 and Trajectory, a consumer insights and future-gazing consultancy.

The report, which marks 30 years since the launch of mobile technology in the UK, is based on research from 2,000 consumers plus opinions from a broad range of industry experts. It also draws on a comprehensive review of past and present insight into the mobile sector by universities, think tanks, industry and government. The result paints a picture of how far the mobile revolution has come in such a short period of time, as it is now considered to be a critical national infrastructure. And yet, despite this apparent proliferation of mobile, the report also reveals a huge amount of untapped potential for businesses, consumers and public sector organisations when it comes to mobile services.

The findings leave no doubt about the extent to which mobile has become an inherent and engrained part of everything we do. In just three decades, mobile has gone from the luxury preserve of a lucky few to near universality; an expectation of an entire nation and a fundamental part of 21st century life, with half of people (49%) saying their life would be significantly more difficult without their mobile phone. The modern mobile handset has also usurped many functions associated with other devices and technologies, from music players to alarm clocks and video cameras, with 66% of people admitting they use their mobile for everyday life management.

This report also challenges common criticism faced by the digital revolution, suggesting that mobile has a role as a true force for good. The research highlights the social value of mobile, underlining its importance to vulnerable groups, opening up digital services, changing the way we work and improving general well-being. For example:

  • 82% of people said they feel reassured when they’re with their mobile
  • 77% of parents say knowing their children have mobile access gives them peace of mind
  • 73% of business decision-makers say their mobile allows them to better manage their time and stay in control, while 54% say their commute has become more productive as a direct result
  • 66% of single parents say their life would be significantly more difficult without their mobile phone

Mobile is also changing the face of retail, with 38% of people believing their smartphone empowers them as a consumer; a figure that increases to 53% among under-44s. With mobile playing a role in the purchasing journey of 50% of shoppers and 25% using their mobile to save money when shopping, it is clear that people are becoming more confident and adept at using mobile to create genuine value.

Ronan Dunne, O2’s CEO, commented:

“This report confirms my unwavering belief that mobile is not just a critical part of modern life, but that it adds immeasurable value to every aspect of society. In the space of 30 years, mobile has proved itself to be, not just a useful everyday communication tool, but a genuine economic asset, making businesses smarter, workforces more productive and shoppers more savvy. In my opinion, if a business doesn’t have a mobile strategy, it doesn’t have a strategy at all.

“In the midst of Mobile World Congress, we are reminded of the remarkable advances in hardware, as we constantly look to innovate and push the boundaries of digital. And yet what has become clear is that we’ve only scratched the surface of what mobile can do.”

The report reveals a huge amount of untapped potential. The percentage of people using mobile to book travel (14%), manage domestic utilities (9%) and interact with public services (8%) remains notably low, with the wider public yet to fully embrace the range of what’s possible with mobile. Despite this relatively low uptake, the research uncovered positive perceptions of digital government services, suggesting that the level of mobile engagement with these services will only increase in coming years.

Paul Flatters, Founder and Chief Executive, Trajectory Partnership, said:

“It has been a fascinating experience to assemble all this evidence on the transformative power of mobile. Even as researchers who constantly pour over the latest data, we were taken aback by the range and scale of the changes brought about by mobile in the course of a generation.

“No area of our lives has been untouched by the mobile revolution. And when it comes to the future, we can be certain of one thing – mobile will not stand still and there is lots more change to come.”

The findings also revealed a continued rise in data traffic, up 60% on last year, as more and more people use their mobiles for data-heavy activities such as video streaming. With such a significant increase in just one year, it’s clear that the mobile appetite is far from exhausted, but is continuing to grow.

You can view the full report here.

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