Most South East people are ‘mobile-phobic’ abroad

High bills make us turn to texts 

New research from BT 1 reveals that 96 per cent of people in the South East develop ‘mobile-phobia’ when abroad, significantly reducing their normal mobile phone use. 

More than three quarters (77 per cent) of people in the South East are afraid to use their mobile because they are worried about expensive charges or are completely in the dark about how much it will cost. 

From the moment people in the South East leave home to travel abroad, their mobile habits undergo a radical transformation. Around two thirds (65 per cent) go “cold turkey” and use mobiles sparingly or not at all. While 18 per cent do not dare to risk it, leaving mobiles at home when travelling abroad. 

Those from the region who do take their phone abroad are very selective about answering calls and replying to texts. More than half (59 per cent) say they only answer calls which cannot wait until they get home and two thirds (67 per cent) only reply to important texts. Almost a quarter (22 per cent), never answer a call on their mobile when they are abroad and 16 per cent never reply to a text. 

Despite this change in behaviour, the majority (58 per cent) of Brits abroad, still want to check in with friends and family back home, but most use text or email (62 per cent) instead of calling (25 per cent). Only six per cent feel comfortable using their mobile to make calls every day whilst abroad. If cost was not an issue, the number of people who would choose to call home would double2, whilst the number who would text or email would fall by a third.3 

The recent launch of SmartTalk, a new free app by BT, means BT customers can save money on their smartphone calls abroad. By linking their smartphone to their BT home calling plan customers can take advantage of the inclusive call allowance in their calling plan. This means holidaymakers can now call home without the worry of a large bill when they get back to Britain. 

The app works best over wi-fi, but will also work over any mobile data connection. It allows BT customers to make phone calls whether in the UK or abroad , which are billed as if they were calling from their BT home phone. BT broadband customers have the added advantage of access to more than 7.5 million hotspots worldwide for free. 

Pete Oliver, Commercial director of BT’s Consumer Division, said: “We know how important it is to stay in touch when you’re away from home – especially when you’re abroad. Our new SmartTalk app allows customers to take their calling plan with them, so they can continue to save money away from home. With a staggering 80 per cent of people completely in the dark or only admitting to roughly understanding international mobile charges, SmartTalk allows you to phone the UK from your smartphone without having to worry about expensive roaming charges.” 

Jasmine Birtles, broadcaster, financial expert and founder of Moneymagpie.com, said: “The BT SmartTalk app is definitely a handy money-saving tool to have with you on holiday. Whether you're travelling on a budget or you just want to make calls back to the UK without worrying about the cost, this app gives you the freedom to use your mobile wherever and whenever you wish.” 

Dr Stelios Koundouros, director at Billmonitor.com, said: “Our research4 shows that most of calls from mobiles abroad are made back to the UK. Therefore BT SmartTalk gives customers a real benefit, enabling them to make the most of their BT calling plan when abroad.” 

BT SmartTalk calls can be made to anyone, anywhere, at any time and the app supports up to five users on one calling plan. Customers will not be charged for making calls that are included as part of their home calling plan. They could even save when calling outside of their plan as BT’s standard landline rates will apply, instead of mobile rates that can often be more expensive. 

The BT SmartTalk App is now available free from the App Store on iPhone or Android/Google Play or for further information visit www.bt.com/smarttalk 

Notes to editors 

Savings examples: 

• A couple are on honeymoon in Thailand. Two quick five minute calls to their respective parents’ home phones on O2’s PAYG mobile standard rate would cost a total of £14.90. Using BT SmartTalk when logged on to wi-fi, on an Anytime plan, those same phone calls would have been included in their home calling plan. 

• A group of three friends move into their new house and need to call each of their utility suppliers on three 0845 numbers. On Orange’s PAYG standard rate, each 20 minute call would cost them £7.20. But using BT SmartTalk, the same calls would cost a maximum of just £3.84. 

• A BT customer’s teenage daughter calls her best friend in the evening for an hour when her GCSE results come in. On Vodafone’s PAYG standard rate, this 60 minute call would cost £15.00. Using BT SmartTalk on an Unlimited Anytime Plan Plus, the same call would cost £1.72. 
NB Savings exclude mobile provider’s inclusive minutes or bolt-ons. 

BT Calling Plans

Cost per month

Unlimited Weekend


Includes calls between midnight Fri &  midnight Sun

Unlimited Evening & Weekend


Inclusive calls between 7pm-7am Mon to Fri & all weekend

Unlimited Anytime


Inclusive calls at any time

Unlimited Anytime Plan Plus


Inclusive landline calls at any time plus half our standard pence-per-minute rates to UK mobiles

Inclusive calls means calls of up to an hour to UK landlines including numbers beginning 01, 02, 03, 0845, 0870, and excluding Channel Islands.

Cost of calls outside calling plans

UK landline


(7am – 7pm Mon to Fri)


(7pm to 7am Mon to Fri)


(Midnight Fri to midnight Sun)



0p extra

When making a chargeable call, a 13.87p set up fee applies.

Calls to UK mobile phones

Pence-per-minute rate(Daytime)

Pence-per-minute rate(Evening)

Unlimited Anytime Plan Plus



Unlimited Anytime Plan
Unlimited Evening & Weekend Plan
Unlimited Weekend Plan



A 13.87p call set-up fee applies.

  1. ICM interviewed a random sample of 2028 adults aged 18+ from its online panel between January 25 and 28, 2013.  Surveys were conducted across Great Britain and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.  ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.  Further information can be found at www.icmresearch.co.uk
  2. 25% of people surveyed would call using their mobile if they needed to get in touch with someone at home whilst abroad.  This went up to 49% if cost was not an issue.
  3. 62% of people surveyed would text or email using their mobile if they needed to get in touch with someone at home whilst abroad.  This went down to 41% if cost was not an issue.
  4. Independent research carried out by BillMonitor.com on behalf of BT, undertook analysis of 8,000 pay monthly mobile phone bills between October 2011 and November 2012. 

1 £15.45/month BT line rental and monthly home calling plan payable. Customers need an iPhone / Android Smartphone connected to Wi-Fi or 3G. UK time zone applies. Opt-in for International, Premium (09) and Personal (070) calls. Fair Use policy applies. Excludes BT Basic. See www.bt.com/btfon.