While mobile phone calls are still a popular way to keep in touch with friends and family, most adults would rather go without them for a day than forgo their favourite messaging apps, according to new research published by Ofcom.
Online communication services like WhatsApp and Snapchat have become increasingly important to our daily lives. So, Ofcom has been taking a closer look at how people use them outside of work, how they affect the role of traditional telecoms services, and how these markets may evolve in future.
Keeping in touch
Online communication services (OCS) are in many cases valued more highly by consumers than traditional telecoms services, such as text messaging or phone calls.
According to Ofcom’s latest research, between 2012 and 2022, the number of text messages (SMS and MMS) sent fell from 151 billion to 36 billion. Over the same period, the number of online messages sent in the UK increased from 100 billion a year to over 1.3 trillion.
Person-to-person messaging volumes in the UK by traditional and online communication services
Mobile phone calls are still a popular way to keep in touch with friends and family. Between 2012 and 2022, the amount of time we spent making mobile phone calls increased from 132 billion minutes to 170 billion minutes, and 83% of UK adults have made a mobile call in the last three months.
However, only a quarter (26%) of those people made a mobile phone call on a daily basis, and even fewer (23%) sent a traditional text message every day. In comparison, two-thirds (67%) of people who use an online communications service such as WhatsApp do so daily.
Around three in five UK adults (58%) say they would rather go without mobile phone calls for 24 hours than go without their favourite messaging apps
WhatsApp is particularly popular
Many people use a number of online communication services at the same time, with the average UK adult actively using three different services over the last three months.
However, WhatsApp is the most commonly-used messaging app in the UK, with 76% of adults using it in the last three months. Around two-thirds of UK adults (65%) say that WhatsApp is their main online communication service, followed by Messenger (18%) and iMessage (6%).
Usage of services for personal messaging or calling purposes
Only one in 10 have changed which messaging app they use the most in the past year, with around half of those (51%) doing so because of its popularity among their friends and family.
Online communication services are also popular for all age groups with 81% of internet users over 65s using these services and 76% of over 55s using these services at least weekly.