The tech Britons “can’t live without”
May 10th, 2023, Christien Pheby

The tech Britons “can’t live without”

The philosopher Marshall McLuhan suggested that technological tools served as “extensions of our physical and nervous systems.” If he were alive today, he’d probably feel vindicated: previous YouGov research has indicated that three-quarters of Britons would find it hard to live without the internet, and our latest research suggests that two in five (42%) say the same of their mobile phones. Some one in six (17%) say its their computer/laptop or their TV which they couldn’t live without.

PCs/Macs are the second-most important tech device (27%), with phones (26%) and TVs (26%) also up there. Every other option we offered was dramatically less popular.

As is perhaps to be expected, there are significant differences when you filter by age. More than half of Britons aged 16-34, for example, say they couldn’t live without their mobile phone (56%), but they’re less likely to say they couldn’t live without any other item. The youngest cohort are, for example, half as likely to say they couldn’t live without their computer/laptop (8% vs. 17% of the public) – a device that’s far more important to people aged 35-54 (16%) and especially those over 55 (25%). The oldest Britons are also the most likely to say they couldn’t live without their televisions (22%) and least likely to say they couldn’t manage without their phones (26%).

Meta’s social platforms are the ones Britons are most likely to say they couldn’t live without

When it comes to social media, the most important – by some distance – is WhatsApp: a fifth (20%) of Britons overall say they couldn’t live without it, and while it’s slightly less important to the youngest demographic (17%), it’s still the most crucial platform by some distance.

Facebook is considered most important to Britons aged 35-54 (12%), and less so to those aged 16-34 (7%) – who are more likely to favour Instagram (12%). Buzzy platforms such as TikTok are also more popular among the youngest Britons (8%), but can be lived without by almost everyone in other groups.

Spotify and Netflix the music/video streaming services Britons are most likely to say they can’t live without

Finally, we took a look at music and streaming services. For music, Britons were most likely to say that they couldn’t live without Spotify (20%), followed by YouTube Music (5%) Amazon Music (4%), BBC Sounds (4%) and Apple Music (3%).

For streaming services, Netflix wins out (16%), followed by YouTube (12%), and BBC iPlayer (11%). Disney+ (4%) and Amazon Prime Video (4%) – both considerably younger services – came in a fairly distant joint fourth. Relatively newer services like AppleTV+ (1%) and Paramount+ (1%) had a smaller share of viewers, but this may well change over time.

Along age lines, younger Britons are twice as likely on average to say they can’t manage without Spotify (while just 7% of over-55s say the same).

Video services are less dominated by a singular brand, but Netflix still has the edge among all groups – except over-55s, who favour BBC iPlayer.

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All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2140 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th - 20th April 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the UK population (aged 16+).