The demise of the landline

landlineThe fixed line telephone has been with us for over one hundred years, and while its function has remained basically the same, its form has changed dramatically.  From bulky wall-mounted devices with separate speakers and microphones, to the classic blocky plastic wedge, to sleek cordless units, the landline has been through many redesigns.

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Interestingly, despite being smaller and easier to use than ever, ownership and use of landline phones seem to be on the decline throughout New Zealand. According to Statistics New Zealand, 91.6% of New Zealanders had access to a landline phone in 2006. In 2013 that had fallen to 85.5%. And Canstar Blue’s recent survey of more than 1,800 New Zealand households found just 65% with a landline in their home.

In terms of demographics it is the younger generations driving this trend, with only 46% of Gen Ys having a landline in their home, compared to more than 76% of Boomers surveyed. Gen X also have fairly high ownership, at 73% of households.

As mentioned above, this decrease in the use of landlines, known as ‘cord-cutting’ has been overwhelmingly driven by younger New Zealanders, mostly between the ages of 18 to 34.  If trends continue, it’s not impossible to imagine a time when no one uses a fixed line phone for personal reasons, though that is still a fair way off.

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As the uptake and use of mobile phones increases, and the ownership of landlines decreases, it will become increasingly important for older Kiwis to be smart-phone savvy, particularly for keeping in touch with children and grandchildren. Even email is passé for Gen Zs – let alone picking up a handset! Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr – keeping in touch with the lives of grandchildren is likely to be more social media than social.

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