Ofcom report highlights the rise of online gaming and laptops

Adam Oxford

UK communications industry regulator Ofcom has released its annual Market Report today, which is full of data about how UK citizens use their phones, laptops and PCs. It's a fascinating – if lengthy - document which once a year provides a snapshot of how our relationship with technology is changing.

There's even, if you read far enough, some interesting tidbits about games. Even Steam gets an honorary mention.

Ofcom found, for example, that in more than 4% of all households there are two or more people who actively use Valve's online store front. It's a curious measure - I'm not sure why two users was the trigger to be counted rather than one, although I have asked for more information on that.

Meanwhile, a full 40% of households have at least one online gamer under their roof – with 26% having played in the last week.

Here's the best stat, though: apparently, as a nation, we racked up 72.7million hours playing games online last year. That's the second most popular activity after using social networking (190.4million hours) and reading email (a paltry 51.7million hours). Looking at individual stats gaming is even more popular: gamers spent an average of 4.4 hours a month playing online, up from 4.3 hours last year. That compares to the average of 2.1 hours reading mails and just 1.8 hours a month watching online video.

Obviously this is hours spent at home, rather than at work, where I assume the majority of email gets read.

Curiously, vastly more laptops than PCs are used to access the internet. 61% of households use a laptop to go online, compared to just 44% for desktop PCs.

For example, the UK is a nation of early adopters: more than one in ten people own a tablet of some kind already, according to Ofcom, up from just 2% a year ago. If you're one of the 39% of the population who owns a smartphone, meanwhile, there's a one in five chance that you also own a tablet.

And the mobile revolution continues, not only are more calls placed via mobile phone than landline, 42% smartphone owners consider our phones more important for accessing the internet than our PCs and laptops. More than half of UK households own three or more internet enabled devices.

There is some good news for the digitally excluded too. While one in five households still have no net connection, in the 64-74 age group internet use has sourced, increasing 9% to 64% of all respondents. Other news includes the rapid decline of Groupon, whose audience almost halved year on year.

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