Brits Top Mobile Social Networking League

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Seventeen million people in Britain own a smartphone, but many of us are reserving judgement on tablets

People in Britain are among the most eager consumers of social media on mobile devices, but are lagging behind the rest of Europe when it comes to their interest in tablets, according to new research.

Britain is the highest ranked Western country in TNS’s Mobile Life 2011 report when it comes to using social networks on mobile, with over 11 million people logging in while on the move. The research claims that 16 percent of Brits access social networks every day from their mobile, and almost half of those that do not are interested in doing so.

“Mobile technology is transforming the lives of Britons at an unprecedented pace,” said Stephen Yap, group director at TNS Technology. “With social networking emerging as a killer application, mobile content and applications have never been more important. Handset makers and operators take note: it’s no longer just about the device or the network, but rather what people are doing and downloading.”

Cautious about tablets

The UK also leads Europe in downloading apps, watching social video and downloading games, driven by the fact that 17 million people in Britain own a smartphone. The number of mobile phones in Britain actually exceeds the number of people, with around 1.3 phones to every person. However, many Brits are yet to be sold on tablets.

According to the research, which covered 34,000 consumers in 43 countries, only 17 percent of those surveyed in the UK were interested in buying a tablet over the next six months, compared to 28 percent across Europe. TNS claims that this is largely a result of people tightening their purse strings in this ‘age of austerity‘.

“Brits’ comparative scepticism when it comes to tablets affirms the pragmatic relationship between people in this country and their technology,” said Yap. “While consumers elsewhere have been wowed by the iPad, Brits maintain more of a ‘wait and see’ mindset – no doubt underpinned by pressures on people’s purses leading to increasing cutbacks on non-essential purchases.”

iPad 2 frenzy

This may come as a surprise to those who saw the queues of iPad 2 fans waiting outside Apple’s flagship London stores on Regent Street and in Covent Garden prior to the 5pm launch on Friday 25 March. Apple stores in London, along with third-party retailers such as Curry’s, PC World and Carphone Warehouse, reported they had sold out of the 9.7-inch tablet within 24 hours of its launch.

Analyst group Gartner is also predicting that the growth of tablet devices will hurt the PC market over the next year. In a March 3 report, Gartner said it now expects worldwide PC shipments this year to grow 10.5 percent over 2010 – instead of the 15.9 percent predicted previously.

However, in the corporate world at least, many companies are feeling the squeeze and holding back on buying on new gadgets. In a recent poll if eWEEK readers, nearly 29 percent of respondents said their budget had been “slashed to the bone”, with a further 23 percent reporting just a small increase in IT spending.

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