Summary:

Need proof that smartphones are conquering the globe? Look no farther than the U.K., where the Office for National Statistics has begun factoring smartphones and the apps that run on them into its consumer spending data, as well as another high-tech addition.

Shopping basket by PSB on Flickr

Shopping basket by PSB on FlickrDay after day, we’re hit with stories about the spread of smartphones and the revolution in apps. Let’s be honest; it’s dizzying. But if you ever wanted proof you weren’t simply being sucked in by the hype, look no further than Britain’s Office for National Statistics.

This group of mathematicians and number crunchers spend their days tracking everything they can about the U.K., from population movements to earnings to house sales. One of the biggest things they do is track the rate of inflation: a crucial piece of information for anyone hoping to guide the economy back to success.

They do this with what’s known as the Consumer Price Index, which watches the price of a virtual shopping basket that represents the goods and services average Brits buy. The cost of this shopping basket is calculated as a way of testing whether price inflation is going up, down, or staying the same.

This year, the ONS has added a few shiny new items to the basket: smartphones and the apps that people buy for them. It’s definitive proof that the technology is going mainstream, because they are, the organization says, “rapidly expanding markets.”

“Powerful smart phones and the applications that run on them have become essential for many when communicating or seeking information,” the Wall Street Journal Europe reported ONS statistician Phil Gooding as saying.

Smartphones and apps aren’t the only high-tech additions, either. The cost of online dating is being included for the first time as more and more people turn to the web to find love.

But just in case you start thinking it’s a case of techno-obsession, not everything is gadgets and gizmos. An ONS document details other additions, including less complex items such as craft kits and oven-ready meats.

At this point, however, it’s worth pointing out the picture may not be the same across the whole of Europe. In Russia, for example, only around 7 percent of citizens use a smartphone — much lower than in Britain, or the U.S., where figures are around 31 percent. And things seem to lag in other ways, too; a recent study conducted on behalf of Russian web company Yandex found Nokia smartphones remained the market leader.

However, the picture is changing rapidly and falling into line with other countries. In the Yandex study for example, Apple gained 12 percent market share in Russia last year; Android gained 14 percent, while Nokia dropped around 12 percent.

Another similarity? Checking traffic reports was among the most popular uses for mobile data during peak times. Anyone who’s experienced the jams in Moscow will empathize, but it seems commuting pain is a common problem worldwide. Perhaps it won’t be long until Russia, too, considers smartphones a part of mainstream life.

Photograph used under CC license courtesy of Flickr user PSD

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