More than half of people in Northern Ireland own smartphones, research has revealed.
The greatest increase in ownership is among rural dwellers and the devices are most popular with those aged under 35, according to communications regulator Ofcom.
More people are accessing the internet on the move, boosted by significant improvements in 3G mobile coverage following significant investment by network providers.
James Stinson, regulatory affairs manager at Ofcom Northern Ireland, said: “Just a few years ago it was the norm to sit at a desk to go online but the rapid rise in smartphone ownership means that more than half of us now access the internet on the move.”
The number of people owning smartphones has reached 55 per cent in the past year. The total accessing the internet on the move has risen 6 per cent in the past year to 51 per cent. The proportion of premises in areas with outdoor coverage from all four national 3G networks has increased by a fifth to 82 per cent.
At 45 per cent, Northern Ireland, along with Wales, has the highest rate of tablet ownership in the UK – up from 29 per cent a year ago and 9 per cent in 2012. Tablets were more popular with older users.
The region also ranks best in the UK for superfast broadband availability.
Other key findings of the Ofcom Communications Report for Northern Ireland included:
• The proportion of users who were very satisfied with their fixed broadband speeds increased to 40 per cent during the year, an improvement most marked in rural areas.
• More than half of internet users accessed social media at home or on the move. Two-thirds used the web for purchasing goods or services.
• Northern Ireland has a higher level of pay-TV take up than the UK as a whole.
• Around a quarter of people watch RTE One every week.
• Ownership of DAB digital radios has risen by almost a third of households.
• People spend as much time consuming media every day as they do asleep, more than eight hours.
The study showed 14 and 15-year-olds are the most technologically advanced in the UK. It showed people hit their peak communications technology confidence while aged in their mid-teens but this drops gradually up to the sixties and beyond.
The report added: “These younger people are glued to their smartphones for three hours, 36 minutes each day, nearly three times the one hour 22 minutes across all adults.”