Earlier this month saw the launch of the seventh edition of Deloitte’s “Mobile Consumer Survey: The UK Cut”. The survey explores the state of the current mobile landscape and how it is likely to change over the next five years. It contains data from 4,150 respondents in the UK aged 16-75 and is a cut of the global survey that provides unique insight into the mobile usage behaviour of nearly 53,000 respondents across 33 countries. In this week’s blog, I look at some of the data from the UK Cut and explore what it means for consumers in the health care and life sciences industries.
This year is the 10th anniversary of the launch of the original iPhone – a revolutionary device that transformed what we carry in our pocket from a phone to a mini-computer. Similarly, the launch of the iPhone X is expected to set the path for technology for the next decade.1 Each autumn, the launch of the new iPhone is widely anticipated around the world. This and other mobile phone launches have driven sales of smartphones through the roof. Over four million smartphones are sold per day, with annuals sales reaching 1.5 billion, and yet, worldwide smartphone penetration is still less than 50 per cent.2
The story is different in the UK, where this year 85 per cent of adults own a smartphone, a data point which has risen steadily each year since 2012, when only 52 per cent of adults said they owned one. During that time, smartphones have grown more popular than laptops and remain significantly more popular than tablets, with every reason to expect these trends will continue (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Smartphone, laptop and tablet penetration among UK adults, 2012-17
Source: Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey, 2017
In the smartphone’s decade of life, evolution has been constant, with smartphones gaining features, processing power and connectivity speed with each new iteration. However, they have done much more than that. They have transformed our social lives, allowing us to reconnect with old acquaintances, to create new and maintain current friendships and connections to colleagues, and to interact privately and publicly across the connected population.
The smartphone’s second decade of life will see even further penetration into the consumer market, with the mobile consumer report predicting the smartphone to become increasingly fundamental to workforce productivity, authentication, and even to identity. These characteristics will be driven by technological advances such as Gigabit/s connectivity speeds, ever faster processing power, applications powered by artificial intelligence, a proliferation in transactional capabilities and the emergence of augmented reality. Some of these technologies already feature in current smartphones, whether through voice-activated assistants like Siri and Google Assistant, or in augmented reality games such as Pokemon Go, which was the most downloaded iPhone app of 2016.3
In the future, the smartphone is likely to become the primary tool for communicating, interacting and transacting with customers and the general population, and it will be strategically important to both the public and private sectors. My particular interest in this is in its potential to impact the health care and life sciences industries.
In our report Pharma and the connected patient: How digital technology is enabling patient centricity, we explored how pharma companies are utilising digital technology to become more patient-centric, transforming their business models in order to improve patient engagement and activation, improve outcomes and increase revenue. Smartphones, and more specifically the apps that reside inside smartphones, are critical to achieving these goals, although pharma’s success so far has been mixed. The 12 largest pharma companies produced more than three times as many apps in 2016 than they did in 2013, but growth in the downloads of these apps has stagnated, with only a 5 per cent increase from 2015 to 2016. Furthermore, the most popular apps produced by these companies dominate total downloads, with the top five apps accounting for 51 per cent of all downloads in 2016. Our research showed that patients do not trust apps created by pharma companies, nor do they want to share their personal data with pharma companies. Building trust with patients must therefore become a priority for pharma if they want better uptake of their apps, and if they are able to do this we believe that pharma companies are now well-placed to capitalise on patients’ familiarity and use of smartphone apps to improve on past performance.
Similarly, the smartphone is making a big splash in health care, which we explored in detail in our 2015 report Connected health: How digital technology is transforming health and social care. One of the most important aspects of the smartphone’s reach is its potential to improve access to health care services through telemedicine, especially for people with mobility problems or those who live in remote areas. Similarly, the smartphone can empower patients and carers by giving them more control over their health and by making them less dependent on health care professionals for health information. Apps provide information and education on specific diseases and treatments and connect patients to others suffering from the same conditions, and in some cases apps are combining technology like artificial intelligence with telemedicine to be even more valuable.4 Investment in many of these technologies may lower costs in the long-term, however just how much remains to be seen.
The benefits the smartphone brings to life sciences and health care are becoming increasingly apparent, but in many cases we are still waiting for its potential to be fully realised. What is undisputable is that the smartphone has become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, and its stature and influence will continue to grow in the years to come.