The demise of the landline

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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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