LONDON (Reuters) - Britons prefer to text friends or keep in touch on Facebook rather than chat on the phone, leading to the first ever decline in mobile voice calls, according to the UK's telecoms regulator.
The average consumer now sends 50 texts a week, a number that has doubled in four years, with over 150 billion text message sent in 2011, Ofcom said in its annual Communications Market Report.
They also spend almost an hour and a half a week using email, on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, or using a mobile to access the Internet, while fewer calls were made on both fixed-line and mobile phones.
The amount of time spent talking on the phone fell by 5 percent in 2011, the survey said, reflecting a 10 percent drop in the volume of calls from landlines and, for the first time, a fall in mobile calls, by just over 1 percent.
Unsurprisingly, young people are leading the charge, despite saying they prefer to talk face to face.
Some 96 percent of 16-24 year olds use a text-based application to keep in touch with friends and family daily, it found, with 90 percent sending texts and 73 percent using social networking sites.
The change in habits went hand in hand with rising numbers of smartphones, which make accessing the Internet on the move easier.
Nearly four in ten adults (39 percent) owned a smartphone, up 12 percentage points on 2010, the telecommunications regulator said, with the time spent using the Internet on mobile devices up a quarter year-on-year.
Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by David Cowell