With the growing popularity of smartphones appearing to show no sign of abating, the various ways in which people keep in touch with friends, family and loved ones is inevitably changing.
A wider range of options for keeping in touch – including text messages, emails, video calls and social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter – mean that the traditional phone call is losing ground. This is despite the fact that the smartphone was originally designed to offer voice calls as its core feature.
The latest telecoms trends predictions for 2016 from Deloitte show that a quarter of smartphone users in developed markets such as Australia will no longer make a regular phone call in a given week.
People in this bracket have not stopped communicating altogether, but will instead contact others through a combination of messaging, voice and video services delivered over the internet. This demographic is dubbed the data exclusive, as they could potentially make use of a phone contract using only data.
The data exclusive contingent accounted for just 11 per cent of the total number of smartphone users all over the world. This increased to 22 per cent in 2015 and now stands at 26 per cent for the year ahead.
Two trends have emerged in recent years regarding the voice call – and they may appear to be in contrast to one another. Firstly, mobile voice volumes measured in minutes have increased by 20 per cent over the last three years. This is most likely the result of the increased affordability of voice minutes, in combination with factors such as the growing uptake of unlimited voice packages, an increase in contract allowances and an ongoing substitution of fixed to mobile calling.
Secondly, the usage patterns of most smartphone owners have become much more data-intensive, with the amount of time dedicated to non-voice activity increasing considerably. In markets such as the UK and the US, this has even trebled.
Deloitte suggests this could be a consequence of a polarisation in the usage of voice on mobile, with some individuals increasing the number of calls they make and others getting by without making any voice calls at all.
The increasing diversity of other communication options is undoubtedly a major driving force behind this trend, with the most popular data service being text messaging, as of mid-2015. This accounted for 60 per cent of total data usage and was followed by instant messaging, email and social networks.
Private conversations are not the only type of voice call being reduced, as apps are starting to replace calls that previously would have been made to order a takeaway, request a taxi, book an appointment or make a bank transfer.