Traditional SMS Texting Losing Out To Popular Chat Apps
April 29, 2013

Traditional SMS Texting Losing Out To Popular Chat Apps

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

The death knell has been sounding for SMS texts for several months now. Last November mobile analyst Chetan Sharma claimed SMS usage was down amongst Americans for the first time since texting was invented. The culprit for this slow murder is easy to spot; messaging apps such as iMessage and WhatsApp.

WhatsApp has been the most talked about of these messaging apps lately as rumors about their potential acquisition by Google has launched them into an even larger spotlight. WhatsApp´s CEO Jan Koum even recently bragged at AllThingD's Dive Into Mobile conference that his company is bigger than Twitter, accommodating over 20 billion messages every day.

Now consultancy firm Informa has crunched some numbers for the Financial Times, finding that chat app numbers have officially surpassed SMS numbers. In less than five years the rise of smartphones has allowed app developers to usurp the hold carriers had over text-based communications, a plentiful source of revenue for telecoms. The Financial Times piece also points out that this rapid increase is seen by some as a threat to Facebook´s current hold on the social networking space.

All told, the Informa study concluded that more instant messages were being delivered by Apple´s iMessage, WhatsApp and others every day than text messages. Informa expects this will be a long-standing trend with app message usage to grow to 41 billion daily messages, more than double the amount of texts sent each day.

In the beginning, carriers allowed text messages to be sent between customers on the same network free of charge. Once the carriers realized there was money to be made in text messages, they began charging per text. Though the average text message contains about 128 bytes of data, carriers began charging around ten cents for each message. As the popularity of SMS continued to grow, carriers eventually began offering unlimited messaging plans.

Yet the massive popularity of smartphones has provided users a plethora of options when sending messages to one another. BlackBerry´s BB Messenger and Apple´s iMessage, for example, are carrier-agnostic services which allow users to send messages to other BlackBerry and iPhone users without dipping into their text allowances.

Apps like WhatsApp and Kik also allow users on nearly any device and any network to communicate via their data connection. Unless these users are connected to a Wi-Fi network, using these services will dip into their monthly data allotment. However many who spend a lot of time on Wi-Fi networks are able to get along without a text plan using any of the aforementioned apps and services.

Messaging apps have finally overtaken the SMS, but according to Informa´s data the SMS isn´t yet dead.

The consultancy firm expects messaging app usage to grow to 50 billion daily messages sent in 2014 and text messages to grow to 21 billion sent per day. This means that while the apps are overstepping SMS in leaps and bounds, SMS is also continuing to grow.

Informa´s Pamela Clark-Dickson told the BBC that while app messengers will only rise in popularity, there are other parts in the world, such as developing countries, which rely on SMS and prefer it over apps.

"They don't have mobile data plans, so there is an awfully big base of mobile phone users who are going to still find that SMS is the best messaging experience for them for a while," explained Ms. Clark-Dickson. "There is a lot of life still in SMS. There are a few things that, I think, will keep the SMS alive for a few years yet."