Smartphone sales in the UK will overtake that of tablets this year for the first time, according to eMarketer’s latest retail forecast.

UK retail e-commerce purchases made by using a smartphone will be worth nearly £18bn, representing a 49.7 percent share of all online shopping sales via mobile.

Meanwhile purchases made via tablet will account for 49.4 percent of mobile spending.

Overall UK retail e-commerce sales are expected to reach £83.55bn this year, according to eMarketer estimates.

Bill Fisher, a senior analyst at eMarketer said:

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To put that into context, the proportion in the US will be less than half of the UK total this year, at just 9 percent. Indeed, outside of China, the UK is the world’s most advanced retail e-commerce market in terms of proportional sales.

And despite, or perhaps because of, the current economic uncertainty in the UK, e-commerce sales continue to post strong growth.

By 2021, retail e-commerce purchases made via smartphone sales will represent 56 percent of total mobile commerce (m-commerce) sales. More than a quarter of all retail sales will be digital.

Mobile and tablet use in the UK

Tablet use in the UK has been one of the highest in Europe.

However, in the past couple of years, Britons have increasingly opted for large-screen smartphones as their primary device instead of tablets.

With so many smartphones now within the six-inch range, a larger tablet device is no longer necessary.

Paul Lee, head of technology, media and telecommunications research at Deloitte said in January:

With smartphones becoming larger and more powerful, and our research showing that millennials typically prefer laptops to tablets, it seems that the tablet may be getting harder to swallow for consumers.

There are three consumer devices that are leading tablets by a large margin: TVs, smartphones, and computers. It seems unlikely that the tablet will ever displace these devices.

According to the latest preliminary figures from research firm IDC, the global tablet market shipped 36.2m units in the first quarter of 2017, a decline of 8.5 percent year-on-year.

Ryan Reith, vice president of IDC worldwide’s mobile device trackers program said:

It appears for many reasons consumers became less eager to refresh these devices [tablets], or in some instances purchase them at all. We continue to believe the leading driver for this was the increased dependency on smartphones, along with rather minimal technology and form factor progression.