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Smartphones overtake laptops for UK internet users, and a quarter use their mobile to buy online

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Smartphones are now more popular than laptops for everyday UK internet access, according to a new report that has important implications for retail.

Ofcom’s 2015 Communications Market Report for the United Kingdom found that two-thirds of people now own a smartphone and use it to shop online, as well as surfing the internet, banking and accessing social media. Some 33% of internet users see their smartphone as the most important device for going online, the report found, compared to 30% still using their laptop.

Last year’s report found that 22% preferred their phone, and 40% their laptop. But now 66% of UK adults own a smartphone, including 90% of 16 to 24-year-olds and 50% of 55 to 65-year-olds.

A quarter of mobile internet users use it for a retail purpose, either buying via their phones or finding a store location. Some 26% of mobile internet users said they used their phone to buy an item in March 2015, and the same proportion used it to find the location of a store. But shoppers were less likely to use their phone to pay in-store: some 6% of mobile internet users paid at an in-store point of service, compared to one in four who made mobile payments.

The report comes as more people use mobile devices to access ecommerce websites. IMRG figures from last September marked a tipping point as shoppers started to use mobile devices more often than desktops to visit retail websites.

The Ofcom report found that in March 2015, two-thirds of the UK’s digital audience visited Amazon’s website. Some 32.1m people visited the site from a desktop, laptop or mobile device: that’s equivalent to 68% of the digital population. eBay , meanwhile, was visited by 59% (28.2m people) of the active digital audience, Argos by 30% (14.1m) and Tesco by 27%, or 12.7m people.

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