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Voice calls on mobile networks see first-ever decline in UK

People are increasingly turning to internet-based services like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, according to a report by Ofcom.

Cell phones

We may be hooked on our phones, but we're not using them to make as many calls on mobile networks, according to an Ofcom report.

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If you feel like you hardly use your phone to actually talk to anyone, you're not alone. 

In 2017, for the first time ever, the number of calls on traditional mobile networks fell in the UK, according to a Thursday report by telecommunications regulator Ofcom. The total volume declined by 1.7 percent, the report says.

The survey also highlights how dependent we've become on our digital devices. Seventy-eight percent of adults own a smartphone, and we check our phones every 12 minutes. We also spend 24 hours online each week, according to the report. 

Our phones are often the first thing we reach for in the morning and the last thing we look at at night. Two out of five adults check their phones within the first five minutes of waking up, and a third look at their phones before going to bed, according to the survey. 

It's not just Brits who're hooked on the devices. Eighty-nine percent of Americans look at their phones within an hour of waking up, and 81 percent check their phones an hour before going to bed, according to a November survey by Deloitte. Americans also check their phones nearly 47 times a day, the Deloitte survey said. 

In the UK, three-quarters of people say voice calling is still an important function of their phones. But 92 percent say internet browsing is critical. 

The survey didn't collect data on the use of web-based platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which it says could've contributed to the drop in phone calls. 

Tech companies themselves are introducing tools to help people curb their digital addiction. Facebook and Instagram this week added features that limit time spent on the apps, and Google in May introduced time management tools for its next Android operating system. In June, Apple launched similar addiction-curbing features for iOS 12.

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