Almost half of Australians regularly blow their data limits at a cost of $313m per year

Deloitte’s Mobile Consumer Survey 2017 finds that our desire to be constantly connected and continuously consuming is leading to data plan blow outs, hidden costs and more people switching operators.

Continuous connection bad for the bank balance

“We’re more connected than ever before, but we still want more,” said report author, TMT Partner and Leader of Deloitte’s Strategy Consulting practice, Monitor Deloitte, Jeremy Drumm, in response to the findings of the 4th edition of Deloitte’s annual Mobile Consumer Survey.

Not only does the majority of the population (88%) now own a smartphone, we also expect to be connected at all times. We are now looking at our phones 560 million times a day, equating to more than 35 glances a day each.

“70% of survey participants admitted to using their phone while they were eating and 35% jump on their phone within 5 minutes of waking up. The good news is almost 70% of 18–24 year olds acknowledge that they use their phone too much, with half of those attempting to limit their usage. The bad news is only 1 in 5 are succeeding,” said Drumm.

“Bigger data plans and increasingly available free wifi hotspots are facilitating our connected way of life, although not sufficiently according to our research.

“The number of people streaming content and watching live TV on phones has tripled since 2016, with 25% of 18-34 year olds watching live TV on their smartphones weekly,” said Drumm.

But this trend does have a knock on effect, with 43% of Australians ‘fairly often’ or ‘very often’ exceeding monthly data limits. The survey highlighted that those on 3-5GB plans are twice as likely to exceed their limits as those with 500MB or less of data. 

“Our research found that the number of new phone users with a data limit over 10GB has doubled since last year. And 60% of new plans purchased in 2017 had a limit exceeding 3GB. Plus wifi continues to be the most frequently used data connection for 63% of us – a big jump up from 49% in 2016. And yet people are still regularly blowing limits, resulting in consumers paying approximately $30 million a month extra to their operator,” said Drumm.

At the time of the Survey, Australian consumers did not have access to an unlimited data plan, despite almost 40% of respondents listing this as an important feature when selecting an operator.

“The desire for more data and for better quality coverage is trumping all other requirements and leading people to switch operators more than ever before. 18% of those surveyed had switched operators in the last two years and this figure was higher – 24% – amongst 18-22 year olds”, noted Drumm.

Customers are also voicing their dissatisfaction more than ever, with a 47% increase in new complaints specific to mobile phone services filed with the Telecommunications Ombudsman in the last financial year – supporting the findings of their recently released annual report which highlighted a 160% increase in the number of complaints received.

And it turns out we’re not just using the data for entertainment purposes. Smartphones are becoming an invaluable workplace tool with 67% of respondents using their phone for work.

“Smartphones are redefining the future of work with 26% of us ‘often’ using our phone for business purposes outside of work hours. Although, few are using it for workflow applications such as submitting time sheets or expenses or accessing an intranet. So there’s a huge opportunity to optimise mobile for basic work tasks that can be undertaken on the move and transform the way we work,” predicts Drumm.

Talking about my generation

Australia is one of the leading global adopters of the smartphone with 88% of Australians now owning at least one. Based on the time of our survey we’re behind only Norway, Netherlands, Ireland and Luxembourg, who have all broken through the 90% adoption level. The UK is sitting at 81%.

But for the first time it’s not the younger generations leading the trends. Silver surfers are taking us to the peak of the smartphone wave, driving market growth with a five point increase in ownership for 55-64 year olds and a nine point increase for 65-75 year olds.

“Yet some people won’t let go of the past,” said Kate Huggins, National Telecommunications Leader at Deloitte.

“Despite the decommissioning of the 2G network since our last survey, ownership of the old feature or flip phones has only dropped from 17% to 14% in the last year. The desire to go retro or to switch off from the digital world is clearly having a bigger impact than expected.”

But with more people buying smartphones and the increasing cost associated with this, the survey uncovered a leap in the number of people selling or trading in their old smartphone.

“We’ve seen a 55% jump since last year, although that still means only 14% of us are cashing in their old smartphone. And given the estimated $8.6billion worth of phones out there, we’re surprised more people aren’t checking drawers for forgotten phones,” said Huggins.

Making the most of the ‘smart’phone and the ‘smart’home

According to Kimberly Chang, Deloitte Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) Leader, we expect more from our smartphones and are seeking out more ways to connect ourselves in our homes.

“Our smartphones are getting smarter, adapting to user needs and customising applications using a form of Artificial Intelligence called machine learning. We have personalised assistants, in the form of our phone, at our fingertips 24/7 so why aren’t we letting our smartphones use their smarts to help out more, allowing us to disconnect and re-engage with real life?” asked Chang.

“Predictive text is the most popular form of machine learning with 39% of survey respondents using it. And despite the fact that every Uber driver seems to rely on it, only 20% of respondents are using route suggestions. With the most likely users being 18-24 year olds, we can now officially say that Millennials would literally be lost without their smartphones!”

Although 43% of survey respondents are aware of voice assistants, the number of people taking advantage of this feature remains low, at 14%. However, with the introduction to the Australian market of voice-led technology for the home this could be set to change.

“With the amount of information available to us through our phone, we see voice assistant as the perfect solution to help us sift through and find what we need – without us even realising how much work it’s doing. We believe voice assistants have the potential to overtake predictive text as the most popular AI feature.

“But first we’re going to have to get over our fears of talking to our phones in public. Our research suggests men are more comfortable doing this, being 50% more likely to use voice search than women. Privacy is another key issue when it comes to conducting searches by voice. Users are understandably reluctant to communicate personal information, such as banking details, when out and about and surrounded by strangers.

Voice assistants are not the only smart devices that we’re seeing infiltrate the home. Following years of stagnant growth connected devices are gaining momentum, in particular smart entertainment systems. The survey shows a 50% growth since 2016 in ownership of smart TVs, 46% in games consoles and 75% in wireless speakers.

“This is in part due to the increased availability of these products and with that increased affordability,” said Chang.

“And it’s the affordability factor that is driving adoption of smart home products, as Australia continues to experience low market penetration. Lower-cost items with a clear customer benefit that can be self-installed, such as alarms and lightbulbs, are more popular than the bigger ticket items such as smart fridges. We suspect that consumers are testing the functionality and value of these smaller products before committing to more expensive connected devices, with our survey indicating that the intention to buy is higher than current ownership levels across all areas.”

We’re tapping happy with our trusty fingerprints

24% of us are buying a product on our smartphone at least once a month. Women (22%) are more likely to make a purchase on their phone than men (14%) but we are all using our fingerprint more to complete transactions.

“Fingerprint authentication has risen 35% since 2016 and in the same period online purchases have risen 25%, perhaps suggesting that those browsers and cart abandoners are being converted by simpler payment options,” proposed Drumm.

“31% of respondents currently use fingerprint authentication, with 94% using it to unlock their phone. But as we manage more sensitive data on our phones, biometric authentication – most likely facial recognition – will become the norm. The newly released iPhone X has abandoned the home button, and therefore fingerprint authentication, in favour of a bigger screen and facial recognition and authorisation.”

Younger people are the primary adopters of this function at 50% take up. Not only the most open to new technology, they are also the most trusting generation when it comes to sharing data, with just over half of respondents believing their data is passed on to third parties, compared to the 79% of 55-64 year olds who are confident that companies are reusing their personal information, making them more conscious of what they share.

About the survey

  • The Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey 2017 is in it’s fourth year. It is a multi-country study of smartphone users with 51,500 participants across 33 countries
  • The Australian cut of the survey is based on a nationally representative sample of over 2000 consumers aged 18 – 75
  • The demographics of the five groups surveyed were 18–24; 25-34; 35-44; 45-54; 55-64; 65-75
  • Participants were polled online between May and June 2017.

For more information and to download a copy of the report, please visit here.

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