London - Landline telephones are no longer regarded as “essential” in many households, according to a report.
Thanks to smartphones, a landline is now viewed as an expensive luxury by many – or simply a device that gathers dust.
The research into changing living standards found that a generation gap existed when it came to phone habits.
It found the younger generation is happy to ditch the landline and rely on the best smartphones.
Many do not even have a landline for broadband, preferring a “dongle” – a device plugged into a computer – for internet access without the need for traditional fixed-line phone.
By contrast, pensioners and parents still opt for a cheap and cheerful mobile to spend money on broadband and a landline.
The study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation charity in York looked at what goods and services were needed by different groups to achieve an “acceptable standard of living” and how this had changed in six years.
Many of the “essentials” in 2014 were the same as in 2008 but, as well as the demise of the landline, for the first time pensioners regard internet access as vital.
Abigail Davis, one of the report’s authors, said: ‘The pensioners we spoke to said they needed a combination of landline and mobile telephones.
“For older people, mobile phones were still seen as primarily for emergency use, with the majority of calls being made using the landline.”
Parents also said the cheapest contract mobile deal was sufficient for them and kept a landline for use as a phone and for internet access.
But adults without children in the house usually opt for a higher mobile tariff that includes greater downloading of data, meaning they are using also using their mobile to access the internet as well as for calls.
Davis said: “In the past, working-age groups agreed that a landline was required in order to be able to access the internet.
“But in 2014, working-age people without children agreed that communication needs could be met using a mobile telephone and internet via a dongle.’
Getting rid of the landline gave a net saving of about £2 a week, she added. The research, A Minimum Income Standard for the UK in 2014, by Loughborough University, was based on 12 focus groups from different social backgrounds and ages.
Each group produced lists of items needed to reach an acceptable standard of living, while changes in these essentials were tracked over the past six years.
The biggest change was in internet access: six years ago it was only considered essential for schoolchildren, but in 2014 it is now thought to be vital for everyone, including pensioners. Other changes for pensioners in the ‘essentials basket’ reflect concern about higher energy bills. A slow cooker, cheap electric fan for summer and fan heater for winter were considered vital. Pensioners also included a small paper shredder as an essential because of concerns about identity fraud.
Another change since 2008 is that eating out at a restaurant now tends to be a rare, rather than a regular, thanks to rising food prices.
A recent Ofcom study revealed the number of mobile-only homes has risen from 10 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2012. It found a third of 16- to 24-year-olds and 26 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds live in mobile-only households, compared with just 1 percent of over 75s.