Procurement · 29 June 2017

How the iPhone era gave rise to the UK freelance economy

Over a fifth of micro firms are now operated solely from a smartphone

As the iPhone turns ten years old on 29 June, new research has revealed how integral the smartphone has become to UK business, and its particular contribution to the growth of the UK freelance economy.

To mark the iPhone era turning ten, a study from FreeAgent showed that of Britain’s 5.3m micro business owners operating in 2017, some 22 per cent use their smartphone as the sole means of running their business.

The figure lags behind the current usage of desktop computers in business only slightly. Some 25 per cent of micro business owners use a desktop to run their company, but smartphone technology is improving at a faster rate, and it’s expected that smartphone use will surpass desktop computer use in business in the next few years.

The co-founder and CEO of FreeAgent, Ed Molyneux, claimed the iPhone era had revolutionised the way Britons did business. “As the number of people owning smartphones has grown so rapidly, so has the proportion of people who have become their own bosses, especially freelancers,” he added.

“Apple’s App store opened in 2008, and since then the number of freelancers in the UK has increased by a staggering 43 per cent, amounting to a workforce of two million who contribute £119bn to the economy.”

Chief digital officer at native advertising company Adyoulike, Dale Lovell, said that, from a business advertising perspective, the iPhone era had changed the landscape irrevocably. “Smartphone-centric advertising models are now essential,” he added.

“Feeds, accessed via smartphones, are where customers live now. It’s the water-cooler at work and the TV set at home of days gone by. Any brand wanting to gain market share simply has to advertise there.

“The iPhone has continued to revolutionise mobile technology by creating entirely new products, services and even entire industries, that we couldn’t envision just ten years ago.”

The growth in the app marketplace since the launch of the iPhone ten years ago has been meteoric. When the App store was launched in 2008, 500 apps were available for users to download, whereas there are currently more than 2.2m, with banking and accounting apps proving of particular use to micro business.

Sophie Guibard, a vice president at challenger lender Fidor Bank, said the iPhone era has helped to revolutionise retail banking more than any other piece of technology in recent years. She revealed that more than 40,000 finance apps are now downloaded every day, while UK consumers log in around 11 million times a day to their banking apps on average.

Guibard added: “Thanks to smartphones advancements in mobile payments and banking apps, we’re now well on our way towards a cashless society.

“The technology has advanced to a stage whereby consumers can easily manage their day-to-day finances around the clock, irrespective of the day of the week it is, in less than 60 seconds.”

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.