Call me maybe? Three UK reveals the nation’s phone habits, likes and dislikes

  • Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the first ever mobile phone call, Three UK reveals new data showing the nation’s changing phone habits
  • The appeal of the old-fashioned phone call remains strong with 4 in 5 making them every week and Three’s customers calling each other 25% more than they did a decade ago
  • But polling unveiled a generational split, as young people are more likely to turn to voice notes and group chats, as over half are nervous about calls to people they don’t know and nearly half reject calls or let them go to voicemail, preferring to text

03 April 2023, London: Today, to mark 50 years since the first mobile phone call was made by Motorola executive Martin Cooper*, Three UK reveals what the nation’s phone habits look like half a century on.

The appeal of the old-fashioned phone call lives on, as Three’s data reveals that customers now call each other 25% more than they did 10 years ago. In a survey commissioned by the mobile network, four in five people said they make or receive phone calls at least once a week.

However, the data also shows a growing generational divide, as young people have admitted to being apprehensive about making phone calls.

  • Over half (58%) of Gen Zs say they are nervous making calls to people they don’t know, compared to just over a third (34%) of over 55s
  • Nearly half (47%) of 16-24 year-olds let phone calls go to voicemail or reject them because they prefer to text, compared with just a fifth (18%) of over 55s
  • Two in five (40%) young people, nearly four times more than over 55s (11%), ask others to make calls for them to avoid doing it

Displacing traditional phone calls are new forms of communicating which are most widely adopted by the young generations. These include:

  • Video calls, with three in five 16-24-year-olds (60%) saying they use video calls to connect with friends and family at least once a week, twice as many as those aged 55+ (29%)
  • Voice notes which have become popular with nearly two-thirds (58%) of 16-24-year-olds using them at least once a week, compared with only one in ten (12%) of those aged 55+
  • Group chats, with seven in 10 (73%) of Gen Z saying they are in one or more that’s active every single day, compared with two in five (41%) among the 55+ group

David Hennessy, Chief Technology Officer at Three, commented:

“Today marks a milestone for the mobile phone industry globally. As we look back to 1973, it’s remarkable to see how far technology has come, and how our habits have changed as phone users. At Three UK, we’re proud to have played a role in some of these developments.

 Whether it’s phone calls, video calls, voice notes or group chats, we will continue striving to provide better connectivity every day for our 10 million customers. We’re excited to see what the future holds for mobile phones in the next half century!”

 Three has been recognised for providing the fastest 5G in the UK and the network now covers 99% of the UK outdoor population.


*Prior to 1973, mobile technology was limited to phones installed in vehicles. That all changed when Motorola produced the first portable handheld mobile phone. On 3 April 1973, Martin Cooper, a Motorola researcher, made history by making the first ever mobile telephone call from a handheld phone. Cooper placed a call to Dr. Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs, his rival.

‘Gen Z’ refers to respondents aged 16-24

Media enquiries: Headland

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The survey was conducted by Censuswide, among a sample of 2,010 UK adults aged 16+, nationally representative on age, gender and region. The data was collected between 13/02/2023 – 15/02/2023. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

 About Three 

Three launched in 2003 as the UK’s first 3G only network, laying its foundations as the network that was born to be different. Today Three is a connectivity company that connects people to people, people to things and things to things and has 9.96 million customers.

Our network today covers 99% of the UK population and we carry 28% of the UK’s mobile data traffic.

Three launched 5G in August 2019, is the largest holder of spectrum in the UK and has been recognised by Ookla as having the UK’s fastest 5G network. It is the only operator able to meet the International Telecoms Union (ITU) 2020 standard of 100MHz of contiguous spectrum for full 5G services.

Three is the official partner and shirt sponsor of Chelsea FC men’s and women’s teams.

Three UK is a proud partner of Samaritans, where it will use the strength of its network and technology to connect 1 million people to emotional support.

Three was voted the Best Network for Data by uSwitch, and the Best Wholesale Partner at the Mobile Industry Awards.

Three UK is part of the CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd group of companies which has mobile operations in 11 countries. We employ more than 4,800 people across our offices in Reading and Glasgow and our 311 retail stores.





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