The rise and rise of tablets and smartphones
Overall we find that more people are accessing news through a greater number of devices than ever before. The computer remains the most important device for online news, but for many this is now supplemented by heavy usage of smartphones and tablets.
Across all our countries 58% of our sample use a smartphone (up from 46% last year) and 37% say they used the device for news at least once in the past week (up from 31%).
Denmark has the highest weekly news usage of smartphones at 57%, with Japan showing the lowest level at 26%. France and Germany have seen the biggest increase over the past 12 months (10% and 14% increases respectively)
Growth in smartphone access for news – selected countries
One in three (34%) use a tablet, with 20% on average using it for news – another significant increase. The biggest national increases have been in Denmark (28–36%) and the UK (17–24%) where low-cost supermarket tablets have opened the market to a broader demographic.
Growth in tablet access for news – selected countries
Across all those using digital devices to access news almost four in ten (39%) now use more than two digital devices to access the news, up from 33% in 2013. The number using more than three devices has grown from 9% to 12%.
Over the last year, Germany, France, and Japan have caught up with other large nations – moving from a quarter to a third using more than two devices weekly.
% using more than two devices to access news by country
In most countries fewer than 50% use a single device to access news. Japanese (62%) are almost twice as likely as Danes (35%) to stick to a single device – but almost everywhere we see a significant move to multi-platform use.
The overall number using a computer to access news each week has slipped from 73% to 67%.
To illustrate the different pace of adoption, we can set out the device overlaps for Japan and Denmark, the countries at the two extremes. Of those using devices for news 24% ONLY use a computer in Denmark, compared with 58% in Japan who ONLY use a computer. In Denmark 42% use a smartphone and a computer in combination and in Japan that figure is only 21%.
Device overlaps Japan vs Denmark
In Denmark, which is a leader in multi-platform use, we see more overlaps and significant numbers relying on new devices. In the UK those who say the smartphone is now their MAIN device for accessing digital news has risen from 15% to 24% in a year. That rises to 43% of those aged 25–34.
Young prefer smartphone, tablets more evenly split
Across our global sample we can see the same trends with the younger half of the population more dependent on smartphones for news. In stark contrast, the tablet’s larger screen size and greater simplicity makes this device more appealing to older age groups. Globally, one-third of 18–34 year olds say the smartphone is their main way of accessing digital news.
MAIN device for accessing news by age and country – Smartphone and tablet by age
MAIN device for accessing news by age and country – Main device for news by country
As the overall ownership figures rise, both tablets and smartphones are reaching a broader cross-section of news users. In the UK, the proportion of News Lovers (heavy and frequent news users) has fallen since 2013 for both devices. Looking at smartphone news users, 55% now fall into the Daily Briefers category (51% in 2013). 22% of tablet news users are now from our Casual Users category (15% in 2013).
News apps and the mobile web
With more news websites using websites optimised for small screens, it is something of a surprise to see the continued preference for news apps in some (but not all) countries. In the UK the proportion using smartphone and tablet apps has grown significantly since last year. Apps in general are more widely used on smartphones where screen real estate is limited, offline access is important, and where speed is paramount.
Apps vs mobile web by device and year (UK) – mobile
Apps vs mobile web by device and year (UK) – tablet
We see a very different picture in Finland, however, the only other country where we tracked this question in 2014. Here, access to news sites is mainly via a web browser, which may be related to the popularity of ‘Finnish’ Nokia-phones that have a Windows operating system.
Apps vs mobile web via mobile (Finland)
Apple vs the rest
In an increasingly competitive market, the overall proportion of Apple smartphone and tablets is falling, but the picture differs by country and device. Denmark, the US, the UK, and Japan show the strongest allegiance to Apple devices – particularly for iPad tablets. Elsewhere, other handsets based on the Android, Blackberry, or Windows operating systems have collectively built up a commanding lead.
This is important because Apple users are significantly more likely to use news apps. In the United States, 42% use a news app on an iPhone vs 32% for those with other smartphones. 25% use news apps on an iPad compared with 20% for those with other tablets. Apple users are also significantly richer than users of other phones and they are almost twice as likely to be paying for news.
Use of smartphones and tablets: Apple vs the rest – smartphone
Use of smartphones and tablets: Apple vs the rest – tablet
The role of branded icons on smartphone and tablet
In the UK, most smartphone and tablet users start their news journeys via the logo of a news brand, rather than search engines or social networks. However apps that aggregate news – like Pulse, Flipboard, and Zite – are considerably more popular on smartphones at the expense of both brand and search. These apps are twice as likely to be used by women as by men (19% vs 10%). Social networks are also popular with women as a way of accessing news on the move (12% vs 4%) and with younger people generally. Men are much more likely to access via a branded link (50% vs 38% for women).
Gateways to news on computers, mobiles and tablets – UK
It really is the personal nature of the smartphone combined with the frequency of access and limited real estate that is creating different behaviours compared with both tablet and desktop.
Smartphone users consume fewer news sources
One further indication of this is that, when using a smartphone, fewer sources of news are used than when accessing via a tablet or computer. We asked our respondents to select the sources they used on each device from a given list of top news sources in each country. On a smartphone, across all our countries 37% said they only used one source of news, compared with 30% on a computer – and 12% accessed more than five sources compared with 17% on a computer.
Number of sources used per device – All countries
In the United Kingdom, where there are a relatively small number of big online news brands, 55% of our sample said they accessed only one source of news when accessing via a smartphone compared with 45% on a computer.
Multi-platform usage extends options
The growth of smartphones and tablets has not generally come at the expense of other media, but is instead increasing the range of options.
Tablet users are just as likely – or more likely – to consume TV news (86%) or read a printed newspaper (45%) in a given week when compared with the average user as are smartphone users (84% and 40% respectively)
Heavy smartphone users are a little less likely to read a newspaper in some countries – possibly related to the substitution that we’ve seen on the daily commute (see section 2.4).
Use of a printed newspaper by smartphone and tablet users – selected countries
Scroll data area to see more
|All||Heavy tablet users||Heavy smartphone users|
Q3. Which, if any, of the following have you used in the last week as a source of news?
Base: All users: users who say the tablet/smartphone is their MAIN way of accessing the news
Smart and connected TVs
Over the past few years the number of TVs that have direct or indirect access to the internet has grown rapidly. We define smart TVs as having the capability to connect directly to the internet; they often come preloaded with apps for video on demand but also some news apps. Connected TVs normally connect to internet services via a set-top box or other connector such an Apple TV. Increasingly, these services too offer video- or text-led news services including travel and weather.
Spain, France, Denmark, and Germany lead the way for smart and connected TVs but in most countries news use remains relatively modest – compared with tablets and smartphones. Even so, broadcasters and news providers are developing new services and offerings for this platform.
Smart and Connected TV users – selected countries
As last year, we asked about the type of content currently accessed via smart TV in the UK and France – and about potential interactive features. In the UK, most respondents used text-based news services on their TV. The main broadcasters offer digital text news services with some video. In France, the reverse is true, with most consumers watching on-demand news video and text services a secondary attraction.
Video vs Text news services on TV – UK and France
Video vs Text news services on TV – UK and France
In both countries, 57% of those who use their Smart TV for news would be interested in an on screen breaking news overlay.
Rises to 66% amongst men (UK).
In both the UK and France, the most popular news types accessed on a smart or connected TV were serious news, local news, and weather updates. In terms of future functionality, there was interest in being alerted to news whilst watching another programme. In both countries, 57% of those who use their smart TV for news said they would be interested in an onscreen breaking-news overlay. This rises to 66% amongst men (UK).