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The Mobile Majority

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With the latest wave of Ipsos MORI's Technology Tracker comes something of a landmark, as we see smartphone ownership rising above the 50% mark for the first time. Little over two years ago, in Summer 2010, the figure stood at just 20%.

This is of course the latest in a series of technology milestones. Perhaps appropriately, it was the year 2000 when we saw mobile phone penetration first reach 50%, with internet access achieving this level a year later. This was followed by what was arguably a more profound moment, in 2006, the year which saw the majority of the population having broadband access.

And, with 44% now accessing the internet via their smartphone, the next point on the horizon will be when mobile web users top 50% - something we will see within just a matter of months.

The possibilities for marketers, sales teams, policy makers - and indeed market research companies - are endless. Not to mention consumers. Some 87% of us feel that "in the years to come the world will keep going faster".

Everyone is having to get used both to the pace of change, but also to the challenges of making decisions when what is just around the corner may not be clear. We know full well that, as new things come on stream, others will fade away. We have all witnessed the demise of the video recorder. DVD players are still very much with us, but penetration has fallen from 68% to 58% in a year. Other areas like gaming, film rental and books are adapting their business models quickly to adapt to the changing needs of their online consumers.

It was not ever thus. Despite being invented in Roman times, central heating only passed the 50% mark during the late 1970s. Car ownership took less time to take on, but it was not until 1970 that more than half of British households had access to a car or van.

Whether all this change is making consumers feel any better about life is quite another question. "I need to slow down the pace of my life", say 57% of British consumers. Meanwhile, 83% "like to have moments when I do nothing at all".

Precious moments indeed, giving us just the opportunity we need - to turn to our mobile phone or tablet and keep in touch with what's going on out there...