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UK Mobile Phones market report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the mobile phones market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry and how fast are its rates of growth? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Products covered in this Report

For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

This Report covers the UK consumer market for mobile phones. Mobile phones are defined as any device being used to place or receive calls by connecting to a mobile network. “Basic mobile phones” and “Feature phones” are terms used to describe non-smartphones.

Smartphones are defined as any portable computer capable of making calls, sending and receiving data (either over a mobile or Wi-Fi network), and downloading, installing and running applications from an app store. ‘Phablets’ are smartphones with a screen of 5” or more.

Market value data in this Report includes sales of feature phones and smartphones to consumers, and is based on the full retail selling price of handsets rather than the amount paid by consumers on post-pay contracts.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Adrian Reynolds, a leading analyst in the Technology sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The trend towards full-screen displays and larger screens has seen prices for flagship smartphones grow considerably, motivating many people to keep their smartphones longer. With extended battery life a priority for consumers, incremental updates and minor innovations are proving insufficient in driving regular upgrades. A large proportion of people are buying phones outright to find cheaper, more flexible contracts with network providers. To accommodate this trend in the face of rising flagship smartphone prices, trade-in schemes and upgrade programmes will become increasingly important. adrian reynolds
Technology Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Products covered in this Report
      • Executive Summary

          • The market
            • Market struggling for growth as people delay upgrades
              • Figure 1: Value of mobile phone sales in the UK, 2012-22
            • Big two manufacturers dominate over 72% of the market
              • Figure 2: Smartphone ownership, by brand, February 2018
            • Smartphone ownership struggling for growth
              • Figure 3: Ownership of smartphones, January 2013-December 2017
            • Major product launches in 2017 boosted advertising spend
              • Figure 4: Total above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on mobile phones, 2014-17
            • The consumer
              • Over half of people have owned their phone more than a year
                • Figure 5: Length of time people have owned smartphone, February 2018
              • Mobile network providers remain the most popular purchase location
                • Figure 6: Purchase location, February 2018
              • Fingerprint scanning is the most popular unlocking method
                • Figure 7: Preferred method of unlocking smartphone, February 2018
              • Social media is the most popular smartphone activity
                • Figure 8: Most popular smartphone activities, February 2018
              • Most people stick to the same operating system and manufacturer
                • Figure 9: Smartphone behaviours, February 2018
              • Nearly two thirds of people will upgrade smartphones in the next two years
                • Figure 10: Plans to upgrade, December 2016 and February 2018
              • Extended battery life is a growing priority
                • Figure 11: Important factors when upgrading, February 2018
              • What we think
              • Issues and Insights

                • Can innovations still entice consumers to upgrade regularly?
                  • The facts
                    • The implications
                      • Insurance and screen replacement plans gain importance as prices rise
                        • The facts
                          • The implications
                          • The Market – What You Need to Know

                            • Market struggling for growth as people delay upgrades
                              • Smartphone ownership struggling for growth
                                • Growth of ‘phablets’ encroaching on the tablet market
                                  • Economic factors remain important despite necessity of smartphones
                                    • Relaunches focus on nostalgia and second phone market
                                    • Market Size and Forecast

                                      • Market struggling for growth as people delay upgrades
                                        • Figure 12: Value of mobile phone sales in the UK, 2012-22
                                        • Figure 13: Value of mobile phone sales in the UK, 2012-22
                                      • Forecast methodology
                                      • Market Drivers

                                        • Smartphone ownership struggling for growth
                                          • Figure 14: Ownership of smartphones, January 2013-December 2017
                                        • Economic factors remain important despite necessity of smartphones
                                          • Figure 15: Proportion of consumers who have bought electrical goods in the last three months and expect to buy in the next three months, September 2015-February 2018
                                        • Growth of ‘phablets’ encroaching on the tablet market
                                          • Figure 16: Apple’s iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus
                                        • Relaunches focus on nostalgia and second phone market
                                          • Figure 17: Nokia’s 8110 4G ‘Banana phone’
                                      • Companies and Brands – What You Need to Know

                                        • Big two manufacturers dominate over 72% of the market
                                          • Apple overtakes Samsung as the most popular brand
                                            • Samsung launches new flagship S9 range
                                              • Apple’s iPhone X becomes the most expensive smartphone
                                                • Major product launches in 2017 boosted advertising spend
                                                • Market Share

                                                  • Big two manufacturers account for over 72% of smartphone ownership
                                                    • Figure 18: Smartphone ownership, by brand, February 2018
                                                  • Apple overtakes Samsung as the most popular brand
                                                    • Figure 19: Smartphone ownership, by brand, December 2016 and February 2018
                                                  • iPhone ownership varies more than Samsung in terms of demographics
                                                    • Figure 20: Ownership of Apple and Samsung smartphones, by selected demographics, February 2018
                                                • Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                  • Samsung launches new flagship S9 range
                                                    • Figure 21: Samsung’s Galaxy S9 smartphone
                                                  • Apple’s iPhone X becomes the most expensive smartphone
                                                    • Figure 22: Apple’s iPhone X
                                                  • Google boosts market presence with innovative Pixel 2
                                                    • Figure 23: Google’s Pixel 2 smartphone
                                                  • Qi wireless charging becoming the standard technology
                                                    • Figure 24: Apple’s wireless charging on iPhone 8 and iPhone X
                                                  • Purism set to launch security-focused smartphone
                                                    • Figure 25: Purism’s Librem 5 smartphone
                                                • Advertising and Marketing Activity

                                                  • Major product launches in 2017 boosted advertising spend
                                                    • Figure 26: Total above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on mobile phones, 2014-17
                                                    • Figure 27: Total above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on mobile phones, by media type, 2014-17
                                                  • Television remains the key advertising outlet for phones
                                                    • Figure 28: Total above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on mobile phones, by manufacturer, 2017
                                                  • Nielsen Ad Intel coverage
                                                  • Brand Research

                                                      • Brand map
                                                        • Figure 29: Attitudes towards and usage of selected brands, February 2018
                                                      • Key brand metrics
                                                        • Figure 30: Key metrics for selected brands, February 2018
                                                      • Brand attitudes: Apple iPhone perceived as worth the higher price
                                                        • Figure 31: Attitudes, by brand, February 2018
                                                      • Brand personality: Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy deemed the most fun brands
                                                        • Figure 32: Brand personality – Macro image, February 2018
                                                      • Google Pixel considered the most desirable brand, with iPhone considered expensive
                                                        • Figure 33: Brand personality – Micro image, February 2018
                                                      • Brand analysis
                                                        • Samsung Galaxy is the most recommended brand
                                                          • Figure 34: User profile of Samsung Galaxy, February 2018
                                                        • Apple iPhone seen as an expensive and exclusive brand
                                                          • Figure 35: User profile of Apple iPhone, February 2018
                                                        • Google Pixel deemed innovative, fun and stylish
                                                          • Figure 36: User profile of Google Pixel, February 2018
                                                        • Sony Xperia considered user-friendly and reliable
                                                          • Figure 37: User profile of Sony Xperia, February 2018
                                                        • HTC lacks a strong brand identity
                                                          • Figure 38: User profile of HTC, February 2018
                                                        • Chinese brand Huawei viewed as basic but good value for money
                                                          • Figure 39: User profile of Huawei, February 2018
                                                      • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                        • Over half of people have owned their phone more than a year
                                                          • Mobile network providers remain the most popular purchase location
                                                            • Fingerprint scanning is the most popular unlocking method
                                                              • Social media is the most popular smartphone activity
                                                                • Most people stick to the same operating system and manufacturer
                                                                  • 24% of people have broken the smartphone screen in the last two years
                                                                    • Nearly two thirds of people will upgrade smartphones in the next two years
                                                                      • Extended battery life is a growing priority
                                                                      • Purchase Patterns

                                                                        • Over half of people have owned their phone more than a year
                                                                          • Figure 40: Length of time people have owned smartphone, February 2018
                                                                        • Mobile network providers remain the most popular purchase channel
                                                                          • Figure 41: Purchase location, February 2018
                                                                        • Upfront payment is focused on retailers and manufacturers
                                                                          • The rising expense of flagship phones is supporting network contracts
                                                                            • Figure 42: Smartphone payment methods, February 2018
                                                                          • 16-24-year-olds least likely to get smartphones from network providers…
                                                                            • …while men are most likely to pay for phones in full up front
                                                                            • Smartphone Security

                                                                              • Fingerprint scanning is the most popular unlocking method
                                                                                • Figure 43: Preferred method of unlocking smartphone, February 2018
                                                                              • Over half of iPhone owners prefer to use fingerprint scanners
                                                                                • Figure 44: Preferred method of unlocking smartphone, by brand owned, February 2018
                                                                            • Smartphone Activities

                                                                              • Social media is the most popular smartphone activity…
                                                                                • …closely followed by calls and messages
                                                                                  • Figure 45: Most popular smartphone activities, February 2018
                                                                                • There is a clear age split in popular smartphone activities
                                                                                  • Calls and SMS the only activities selected less by younger demographics
                                                                                    • Figure 46: Most popular smartphone activities, by age, February 2018
                                                                                  • Wide range of activities has driven storage capacity needs
                                                                                  • Behaviours of Smartphone Owners

                                                                                    • Most people stick to the same operating system and manufacturer
                                                                                      • Free screen repair is set to grow in importance
                                                                                        • Over half of people keep their old phone as a spare
                                                                                          • Figure 47: Smartphone behaviours, February 2018
                                                                                        • 16-34-year-olds are the most likely to stick with OS and manufacturer
                                                                                          • Figure 48: Smartphone behaviours, by age, February 2018
                                                                                        • Those aged 18-24 and upgrading regularly are more likely to break screens
                                                                                          • Figure 49: Target groups based on statements about smartphones – CHAID – Tree output, February 2018
                                                                                          • Figure 50: Target groups based on statements about smartphones – CHAID – Table output, February 2018
                                                                                      • Plans to Upgrade

                                                                                        • Nearly two thirds of people will upgrade smartphones in the next two years
                                                                                          • Figure 51: Plans to upgrade, December 2016 and February 2018
                                                                                        • Owners of Sony smartphones are more likely to upgrade
                                                                                          • Figure 52: Plans to upgrade, by brand owned, February 2018
                                                                                        • Price and incremental updates encouraging some to keep phones
                                                                                          • Increased trade-in deals could boost upgrade affordability
                                                                                            • Figure 53: Reasons for not upgrading, December 2016 and February 2018
                                                                                        • Important Factors when Upgrading

                                                                                          • Extended battery life is a growing priority
                                                                                            • Manufacturers are pushing wireless charging
                                                                                              • Men are more likely to want bigger and better screens
                                                                                                • Figure 54: Important factors when upgrading, February 2018
                                                                                              • Improved camera quality is the second most important factor…
                                                                                                • …and even more important for younger demographics
                                                                                                  • Figure 55: Important factors when upgrading, by age, February 2018
                                                                                                • Vast majority of people focus on multiple upgrade factors
                                                                                                  • Figure 56: Repertoire of important factors when upgrading, February 2018
                                                                                              • Appendix – Data Sources, Abbreviations and Supporting Information

                                                                                                  • Abbreviations
                                                                                                    • Consumer research methodology
                                                                                                      • Market size and forecast
                                                                                                        • Fan chart forecast
                                                                                                          • Value
                                                                                                            • Figure 57: Best- and worst-case forecast for the value of the UK mobile phone market, 2017-22
                                                                                                          • Brand research
                                                                                                            • Brand map
                                                                                                              • CHAID analysis – Methodology
                                                                                                                • Figure 58: Target groups based on statements about smartphones – CHAID – Table output, February 2018