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Baby Boomers embrace smartphone technology with open arms, but traditionalists remain uneasy


Attitudes towards owning and using a smartphone varies significantly amongst the over 50s, according to a new report from online smartphone retailer, Mobiles.co.uk.

The research, which polled 1,518 UK residents aged 50 or over1, looked into mobile phone ownership statistics, favoured smartphone features, and manufacturer brand loyalty.

With smartphone ownership figures at a record high of 93%2, it is evident that opt in from older generations is ever increasing. However, the research highlighted that while nearly two thirds (63%) of Britons aged 50-65 are confident using their mobile phone, and nearly half (48%) will upgrade their handset at least every two years; 64% of those aged 70 or over still find their smartphone confusing, and more than a fifth (22%) only have one because they feel they should.

‘I use my smartphone every day’:

  • 50-55 (57%)
  • 56-50 (55%)
  • 61-65 (47%)
  • 66-70 (44%)
  • 71-75 (33%)
  • 76-80 (28%)
  • 80+ (20%)

The research revealed that interest in owning and using a smartphone drops off around the age of 70.

When selecting a new smartphone, more than a quarter (26%) of those aged 50-55 will choose a model with the latest features, and 82% will rely on their own knowledge or research to make a selection – just 18% of those aged 50-55 ask colleagues, children or relatives to help them to pick a new phone. In contrast, 70% of over 80s stated that they pick a phone that looks simple to use, whilst 20% will simply opt for the cheapest.

Brand loyalty was limited across the board, with 84% admitting to switching between manufacturers.

Top five mobile phone uses by over 50s:

  • Texting (81%)
  • Calling (58%)
  • Taking photos (57%)
  • Checking the weather forecast (35%)
  • Checking social media (28%)

The research revealed that confidence in using a smartphone drops off around the age of 70.

Many of the owners aged 50-65 expressed irritation with assumptions that they are not tech savvy, and some said they felt patronised by this attitude.

In their own words

Karen Vincenti, 54 from Essex said: If we do something every day we become better at it. Therefore, if we’re using technology every day, as is the way of the world we live in, why shouldn’t we be good at it?”

Kevin Wiltshire, 55 from Sowerby Bridge, feared a negative attitude may hold over-50s back: It is really quite saddening that generalisations such as ‘older people are confused by technology’ exist, as they often contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Andrew Cartledge, Mobile Expert at Mobiles.co.uk, added: “The findings from this study have been very interesting, especially the drop in confidence and usage after the age of 70.

“If we consider that those aged 70+ will have been around 40 when the first commercially available mobile phone, like the DynaTac 8000X, came onto the market, it is perhaps not surprising that they can find this type of technology confusing – they’ve had to learn the ropes later in life which is often harder.

“It is worth remembering that manufacturers don’t tailor devices for any one demographic. Smartphones and tablets are designed to be universal and easy-to-learn, with layouts and gestures that feel natural, regardless of age. We hope this give older users confidence to try something new, and benefit from the many new features that the latest smartphones offer.”


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