The Data Digest: Mobile Phone Usage In Public

For the past two weeks, I was on holiday with little access to the Internet. It wasn’t that I'd gone to the ends of the earth; I was, in fact, traveling through the South of England, but we just didn’t come across many places that had Wi-Fi access. During our holiday, I also started to notice that the Brits have a more restrained way of using their mobile phones in public. While I’m used to seeing people around me in the Netherlands checking their mobile whenever and wherever, I hardly saw anyone in the UK browsing on their mobile when in the company of others.

When I commented on this to my colleagues after my return, they attributed it to my rosy outlook due to my time off. So I looked at Forrester’s Technographics® data to compare US and UK smartphone users’ behaviors. Smartphone ownership in the UK isn’t that far behind that of the US: Our recent Forrester Research World Mobile Adoption Forecast, 2013 To 2018 (Global) shows that about 61% of US mobile subscribers use the mobile Internet compared with 49% of their UK peers — and we expect these numbers to grow to 75% and 70%, respectively, in 2018. More striking is our 2013 data that shows that usage of smartphones at home is comparable in both countries — but it’s the usage at restaurants and coffee shops that really differs: 

In the UK, using a mobile in public or while communicating to others recently resulted in a public debate after an incident where check-out worker refused to serve a woman who was chatting on her mobile phone. I’m curious about your opinion. Personally, I found the Brits attitude towards mobile etiquette very refreshing but again, that could have been my holiday state of mind.


Interesting data, Reineke

Interesting data, Reineke :-)

Having just returned to the US from a three week vacation in both the north and south of England, where I was visiting family, this post caused me to reflect on my own experiences. It didn't strike me at the time (probably because I always shut off my phone or silence it when I'm with company) but at no point during meals out (or indoors), in shops or other places where personal interaction took place, did I notice anyone using their cell.

What was even more refreshing was that during two train trips between Manchester and London I was able to book a "quiet coach" in which cell phone usage was politely requested to be kept to a minimum, if engaged in at all. How delightful to sit back for a couple of hours, read a book or the newspaper and not have to put up with someone's one-sided conversation (usually louder than one would wish it to be)!

I put it down to the UK being a relatively small country where we were taught to have a greater awareness of others. As I found when I first moved here to the States, many Americans drive as if they are the only people on the road and rarely acknowledge (as the Brits do) any polite driving behavior (e.g., letting someone into your lane and receiving a hand wave or a flashing light in thanks)...I used to think Americans were rude drivers but now I realize most are just unobservant. The same holds true for cell phone usage, it seems.

But, yes, I do agree with you that I much prefer the good manners of those who turn their cell phones off, especially when eating out or visiting friends. Good on the Brits!