UK comes up trumps as early adopters of new tech in Europe

Despite being plagued by bad weather, no jobs and the recession, people in the UK are coming up trumps as the highest early adopters of new technology in the world.

According to a report by Ofcom, the UK has seen the highest growth in smartphone take-up, for example, between January 2009 and January 2010.

In fact, Brits along with the rest of the world love their technology so much they’d rather opt for broadband over going out or holidays, the watchdog found. Only seven percent would cut down on broadband, whereas up to 56 percent would slash nights out from their budget and up to 51 percent would sacrifice holidays. Though we hear you can do Stevenage on a shoe-string budget.

When we’re not surfing the net, we’re settling down as a nation of couch potatoes – flying the flag alongside Spain as the nation with the highest take up of digital TV. A huge 91 percent of us have this technology and we’re also ahead of the rest of the world in the take-up of HD ready TV sets.

59 percent of UK households have this technology compared to the US with 57 percent. However, we fall down when it comes to HDTV services, which are lower in the UK than in other countries.

In the USA, 44 per cent of households have HDTV services with access to 404 HD channels, followed by Japan with 43 percent of households and 130 channels and France with 42 percent and 55 channels. Compared, the UK has a measly 13 percent take-up and 50 channels.

Overall, we watch more TV than the average 207 minutes per day – 225 minutes, unchanged from 2008.

When it comes to computing we’re more content to slob around than sit at a desk. Across most countries, the desktop PC is still the most popular device used to access the internet at home, followed by the laptop. But in the UK the opposite is true with laptops being the most popular device used to access the internet at home, used by 69 percent of internet users.

The UK is the only country surveyed where more than half of 18-24s, that’s 60 percent, use a device other than a desktop PC to use the internet.

Mobile internet is very popular in the UK with 29 percent of internet users saying they use their mobile to access the internet at home, second only to those in Japan at 43 per cent. Fourteen percent of UK and US consumers also use their games consoles to access the internet, compared with 7 per cent of internet users in Germany.

The UK faces competition in Europe. Germany scored – quite literally – one over on us, listed as the highest for landline take-up with 85 percent of the population having one of these.  This was compared to the 84 percent take-up in the UK.

Italy has the highest mobile take-up with 95 per cent of the population owning a mobile phone, compared to the 91 percent in the UK. The Netherlands has the highest fixed broadband take-up with 85 connections per 100 households,compared to 70 in UK.

We’re also behind the rest of Europe in the take-up of VoIP services with only five subscribers for every 100 people, compared with 26 in France and 20 in the Netherlands. Although the UK did see an average 27 per cent annual increase in VoIP subscribers between 2006 and 2009, Ofcom said VoIP services tend to be more popular in countries where there is high demand for international calls or where broadband is available to consumers without the need for landline services.

The UK saw the highest growth in smartphone take-up in the past year with a 70 percent rise in subscriber numbers between January 2009 and January 2010, compared to 11 percent in Italy.

That said, Italy has the highest take-up of smartphones overall among European countries with 26 subscribers for every 100 people, followed by Spain  with 21 and the UK  with 18.

Spain, closely followed by the UK, also has the highest proportion of subscribers paying over £35 per month for their smartphone services (seven and six subscribers for every 100 people respectively). “High value” subscribers are more likely to use premium handsets such as the iPhone. They are also more likely to have more bundled minutes and data, suggesting that subscribers plan to use their phones more often and for more functions.

The UK experienced significantly faster growth in high value subscribers than any other European country with a 61 percent growth, compared to Spain with just 4 percent growth.

The British traditionally hate asking for directions. Your average Brit would rather do circles for hours than ask a local – so it’s no surprise that the use of mobile mapping and direction services has grown the fastest in the UK with an 86 percent increase since 2009. That’s  nine in every 100 people in the UK using these services, compared to 5 in every 100 people in France and Germany.

*Update According to OfCom: “That particular piece of research only looked at European countries.”