Smart phone 'addiction' growing in the UK, Ofcom claims

New research claims 37 per cent of adults admit to being 'highly addicted' to their smart phones and 22 per cent admit to using them on the loo. We're hardly surprised.

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Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon Editor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
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Andrew Lanxon
3 min read

A massive 37 per cent of adults and 60 per cent of teenagers in the UK say that they are 'highly addicted' to their smart phone, according to a new study. Ofcom, which commissioned the survey, reckons we're "a nation addicted to smart phones". Oh no! That sounds awful.

We're not exactly sure what constitutes being 'highly addicted' -- if never putting our phones down, talking in text speak and dreaming about Angry Birds at night is an addiction, then truss us up and pack us off to rehab.

The survey paints a broad picture of phone use in the UK today. Apparently over a quarter of adults and nearly half of teenagers in Britain own a smart phone, and 81 per cent use it to make calls every day. 

The results also indicate that 81 per cent of people keep their smart phone switched on all the time, and 51 per cent of adults use them while socialising with others. We were a little surprised at the statistic that 22 per cent of adults use their smart phone in the bathroom -- we would have thought it was considerably higher than that. Perhaps those people were just a little embarrassed.

Ofcom claims teenagers are also more likely to use their phone in places where they've been asked not to, such as on public transport or in cinemas. Our commutes into Crave Towers are usually plagued by kids playing tinny dance music at the backs of buses, so that sounds about right. Did you know 15 per cent of teenagers admit to reading less books as they're spending more time with their phones? It surprised us too.

It's not all playtime though -- adult smart phone users are apparently more likely to make work phone calls while on holiday.

Apps are popular, but perhaps not as popular as you might think. Ofcom reckons less than half -- 47 per cent -- of adult smart phone users have downloaded an app. Which invites the question: what on Earth are the other 53 per cent using them for? If you're an adult who's actually paid money for an app, you're among only 25 per cent of smart phone users who have. Teenagers, naturally, are more likely to download and pay for apps.

We're really not that surprised by the figures Ofcom has reported, and certainly not as horrified as the term 'addicted' might lead us to be. Smart phones are cheaper, more powerful and can do considerably more than phones of yesteryear. It's therefore to be expected that more people will buy and make full use of these tools -- we also make regular use of our fridge, but we're pretty sure that doesn't qualify as an addiction.

With half of the 2,073 adults questioned admitting to using their phone while socialising with others, it may be easy to argue that smart phones are becoming something of a social nuisance. Social networks such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter have also seen a massive rise, however, allowing users to easily keep in touch with family and friends -- which seems like a good thing to us.

What do you think of these results? Are you a smart phone addict? Do you get shortness of breath and headaches when you don't send a text for more than 5 minutes? Let us know in the comments below or tell us over on our official Facebook page -- just as long as you're not on the loo.