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Summary:

A study by the British media regulator Ofcom says that people are more likely to use their handsets to text rather than talk — but the real revolution is happening in mobile data, which has doubled in the last 18 months.

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We’ve all known for a while that mobile phones have become a lot more than just mobile phones: they’re computers, messaging devices, cameras, emailers, clocks, gaming handsets and more.

But what was anecdotal is now official. A new study by Ofcom, the UK’s media regulator, shows that for the first time Britons are more likely to use their phone for texting than talking.

In its annual study of communication habits, which was published on Wednesday, some 58 percent of people used texts every day — compared to just 47 percent who made voice calls. The difference was even more marked among younger users, with 90 percent using SMS each day (and another six percent using other messaging apps), but only 67 percent making phone calls.

So what happened to calls? Well, communication is being made through all sorts of other platforms.

Some other headline stats of interest:

  • 39 percent of British adults now own a smartphone
  • The average Briton sends 200 SMS or MMS each month
  • Overall mobile call volume is down year on year for the first time
  • Social networking and email account for 90 minutes of mobile use each week
  • What I’d like to draw your attention to, however, is another trend that the report uncovers: the dramatic rise in data usage.

    While time spent using the internet on mobile rose by a quarter between 2010 and 2011, the volume of mobile data that was consumed actually doubled over an 18 month period.

    The average smartphone user in January 2012 got through 154MB of data each month, up from 71MB in July 2010 and 100MB in January 2011. That’s significant growth, and something that operators cannot ignore — especially when, at the higher end, operators like 3 have reported that average contract users chew through 800MB of data each month. That’s a fourfold increase on the year before.

    The text vs talk debate is grabbing most of the headlines, but it’s data we should be watching: as the world becomes more connected and more online, it’s really not hard to see data continuing that trend and becoming the primary mover behind mobile — perhaps very soon.

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