Tablets Jump into Inflation Basket as Film Processing and Ringtones Fall Out

By Chris Freeburn March 13, 2012

In another sure sign that tablets have gone mainstream, Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), which calculates the inflation rate in the United Kingdom, announced today that it has added tablet computers – like the popular Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab – to the collection of goods whose price changes are used determine inflation.

The ONS estimates inflation on a monthly basis by reviewing the prices of a selected range of goods – commonly referred to as the “basket” – which it assumes is representative of the goods purchased by the average British citizen. Roughly 700 goods and services are included in basket; the prices are of the items and services are closely monitored. By identifying price fluctuations across a range of goods and services, the ONS estimates how overall prices will change.

Goods and services are added and deleted from the survey on an annual basis to account for changing consumer habits. "As in most years, developments in technology influence the basket update and in 2012, tablet computers – such as the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab – are being included for the first time," an ONS statement reported. "This mirrors the evolution of computer equipment through desktop personal computers, laptops and now tablets, and they are being introduced to capture price changes in this rapidly expanding market."

As tablets rise, other technologies fall. The ONS also announced that it color film processing has been removed from the list of goods used to compute inflation as consumers abandon traditional cameras in favor of digital models. Additionally, bundled communication services have become the typical manner in which British consumers obtain telephone, television and Internet packages, and were thus added to the list.

The BBC noted pineapples and cans of stout beer were also considered this year, which includes a new category of books. "Fiction was previously covered by children's and adult books, but with the growing popularity of many titles aimed specifically at teenagers, this new item has been added to the basket,” the ONS said. 

The Sun attributed the teen fiction addition to the popularity of the “Twilight” series of vampire novels, which have been a hit worldwide. Smartphones and Android and iOS "apps" replaced ringtones and cell phone wallpapers last year.

According to the ONS, the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which is used to judge inflation, fell to 3.6% while the Retail Prices Index (RPI) dropped to 3.9%. The Guardian noted that the ONS has been tracking inflation rates for 98 years, publishing the first RPI in 1914 as Britain prepared to enter World War I. Back then, food and housing costs comprised the majority of the average citizen’s spending.

Since the end of World War II, however, food costs have fallen. The Guardian noted that in the last quarter century, household food expenses have fallen from 16.7 percent to 11.4 percent, while housing costs have risen to 23.7 percent, a significant increase from just 15.7 percent in 1987. Leisure expenses have also increased markedly in the past 25 years, according to the source.

Edited by Braden Becker

TechZone360 Web Editor

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