Considering today’s Facebook acquisition of WhatsApp* for the paltry sum of $19B, I thought it would be a good time to write about something I’ve been thinking about for a while now: the end of SMS TXT messaging. I’m certainly not the first person to broach this subject. Molly McHugh wrote a nice article about the subject for Digital Trends back in 2011. But a lot has changed since then, including the creation and subsequent acquisition of a few messaging apps like GroupMe and WhatsApp.
First of all, a brief lesson on SMS (Short Message Service). Many of us have become accustomed to referring to a TXT message sent from one mobile phone user to another as an SMS message. The truth is TXT messaging is but one form (the earliest one) of SMS messaging. Since the days of limited 140 character messages, SMS messaging has expanded and evolved to include other technologies. Users of the more advanced messaging apps like WhatsApp can send longer, more robust SMS messages that include text, photos, videos, maps, voice recordings and of course the thing EVERYONE loves … emojis! Well, at least I love them.
With the advent and release of these new messaging apps, people are sending less and less SMS TXTs year after year. According to this TechRadar article, mobile users sent 19 billion app-based SMS messages per day in 2012 as compared to 17.6 billion SMS TXT messages per day. The Informa research within the article also predicts that 50 billion app-basd SMS messages will be sent each day this year (2014) as compared to 21 billion SMS TXT messages per day. The trend is clear, SMS TXTs should start writing their will and saying their goodbyes.
Aside from the previously mentioned benefits of these apps being able to send more forms of data, there are other advantages to using them:
- They don’t rely on SMS TXT services provided by carriers but rather a common mobile or wi-fi Internet connection. This is why almost all of the carriers are providing “unlimited text messaging” with their mobile phone packages. As implied in this Daily Mail article, mobile carriers are losing money to these apps in a big way, and they will soon no longer be able to rely on their antiquated SMS TXT services to generate revenue. The fight is all but lost for this once-upon-a-time, money making machine.
- They allow you to create groups, so you can quickly and easily send messages to select friends and family. No more typing in names and numbers one by one with each and every message. I personally have about 3-4 groups in each of my WhatsApp and GroupMe apps.
- Similar to Facebook, some of these messaging apps let you “like” the messages sent by those within your groups. This adds an exciting element of interaction not possible when sending standard SMS TXT messages.
Of course, there are also advantages to the SMS TXT, such as:
- Their universal nature of accessibility. I don’t need a special app to send you an SMS TXT msg from my mobile phone, I just need your mobile phone number. In contrast, I can’t send you an SMS TXT message from the WhatsApp or GroupMe apps, nor can I send a WhatsApp message to one of my GroupMe contacts. If I want to message you on WhatsApp, you need to have a WhatsApp account.
- The adoption of smartphones isn’t on the rise everywhere. Sure, you may have recently upgraded to the latest and greatest version of the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, but in many countries the basic phone still reigns supreme. That means apps like WhatsApp and GroupMe are not possible to use, so the only option for messaging your mate to meet you at the local pub is to send him an SMS TXT message.
Either way you look at it, facts are facts and the research isn’t lying: app-based SMS messaging is on the rise while SMS TXTs are on a rapid decline. As I look into the future, I can’t help but wonder what date will be prominently displayed on my Pebble Smartwatch when I send my last and final SMS TXT message. Hmmmm, this feels like the perfect time for a SquareOff.
* For some real insight into the beauty of WhatsApp as a venture backed business and the brilliance of founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton, read Jim Goetz’s post about the company and sale on the Sequoia Capital blog.