The cell phone is now an essential companion in both our private and professional lives. The figures speak for themselves: in 1994 there were around 2.4 million cell phone connections in Germany, but by 2007, according to BITKOM, this figure had risen to a staggering 97.4 million. As such, there are now more cell phones in Germany than there are inhabitants. Worldwide, 2007 saw the number of cell phone connections reach the 3 billion mark (source: BITKOM).
Cell phones are a common feature of the urban landscape and shape our leisure time like no other technical device. For 42 percent of Germans surveyed, the cell phone plays either a “decisive” or “very important” role in their private lives. In terms of their professional lives, 35 percent of those surveyed said the cell phone was of decisive or very high importance. Thus, the cell phone today plays a more significant part in our private lives and leisure time than it does in our employment.
The Internet has become similarly important to us. Over the course of the last 15 years, the World Wide Web has opened a window on the world. The consumer survey shows that today in the personal lives of more than three quarters of Germans surveyed (77 percent) the Internet is of decisive or very high importance. The same number of respondents also stated that they use the Internet seven days a week for personal reasons. Even people’s choice of accommodation is influenced by the Internet, with 74% of those surveyed claiming they would first check that their new home had a broadband connection before moving in (see Figure 9).
The importance of different communications media today and in the future
After face-to-face communication, e-mail, telephone and cell phone are the most important means of communication for the Germans surveyed to keep in contact with family and friends. SMS and MMS messaging are also either decisive or very important communications media for a good third of respondents, while as many as a fifth stated that instant messaging plays a decisive or very important role in communications.
A similar picture can be found in France, Great Britain and the USA, where the importance of cell phones is seen as even higher than in Germany. South Korea should also be mentioned here, with respondents stating that communicating via cell phone is actually more important than face-to-face communication.
If we change our focus from contemporary use of communications media toward that of the future, the survey shows that consumers expect a further significant increase in their importance over the next five or six years, especially for e-mail, voice over IP (VoIP) services, and for mobile and video telephony. Around 46 percent of German respondents believe each of these communication tools will become more significant. As for landline phones, 64 percent believe that the medium will retain its importance, meaning this traditional device will continue to play a clear role in the media mix of the future. The respondents similarly believe personal communications will not dwindle in importance: 61 percent believe this will remain as significant as it is today, while 32 percent of those surveyed predict an increase in the importance of personal communications. These figures are also very similar to the responses regarding the future importance of instant messaging and SMS (see Figure 10).
Again, South Korea is also particularly interesting here. Although the cell phone is already by far the most important means of communication there today, 76 percent of those surveyed believe cellular telephony will continue to grow in importance over the next five or six years.