After years of the number of text messages in the trillions and further — doubling and tripling in yet another year or two — have the number of texts sent into space finally reached a point of critical mass? Are the numbers decreasing as some recent newspaper articles have reported and, if so, are these changes permanent?
Since the first of the year, several articles in The New York Times have reported on a worldwide decrease in the number of text messages for the first time in a decade or more. Brian X. Chen’s article lists a number of countries around the globe and “significant” decreases in the number of text messages sent during the same timeframe last year. Chen cites analysts’ explanations that decreasing texting is “most likely tied to the rise of alternative services like Facebook, Twitter, BlackBerry Messenger and iMessage, which allow customers to send messages [for] free.” Identified as “SMS Erosion” by Tero Kuittinen, a senior analyst at M.G.I. Research, this decrease in usage is expected to impact U.S. companies such as AT&T and Verizon in the next 18 to 24 months.
Fewer Calls, More Data
In another article, Chen again reports on the decreasing number of texts reported by global and U.S. carriers. He cites mobile analyst Chetan Sharma’s global study of the mobile communications industry and his findings “that overall text-messaging use is growing, but more slowly, and in some parts of the world, texting is in steep decline.” The answer (obvious to smartphone owners, but requiring expensive research for telecommunications firms) is that there are now so many other means of communicating with other — Facebook, email, Skype, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
Now a Facebook Fight?
Facebook not only competes with cell phone carrier’s text messaging system as used on members’ personal computers and laptops, the Facebook mobile app is portable, user friendly, allows communication with multiple parties at once and the messages posted are free of charge. Warnings to the industry that free texts such as those posted to Facebook or Apples new iMessage were a threat to the huge industry were hardly acknowledged when first voiced.
Text Messaging & Transportation Safety
The overwhelming research that indicates a marked increase in accident rates while texting has now led a number of states to ban use of handheld telephones entirely, others to ban just younger drivers and some to enact widely enforced laws against texting while driving. Drivers of public transportation such as trains, buses, subways, truck and light rail systems are prohibited from doing so on duty after films of drivers and engineers at the time of the accidents demonstrated them reading text messages or texting. The social and portable use of this type of communication is now limited by statute and the economics of cost. Apps are available, though, that can read text messages and email messages to recipients and take a dictated response. However, only a few cell phones have this capability.
Will Big Business Take Over Text Messaging?
In the very early years of email, most email messages were from one individual to another, or from one sender to a group of recipients. Now, probably more than 99 percent of our email is from businesses and organizations with very few personal emails written or received. Personal communication seemed to switch at that time to text messaging, which didn’t require Internet access or an email server. It was also quickly read and responses were usually immediate. One didn’t have to scroll through numerous emails, spam or unrelated mail to find a message. Now, it appears that big business may be preparing to expand its initial forays into consumer text messaging. Companies have begun to release Best Practices codes of conducts for businesses involved in text messaging, an action that became required when business first turned its attention to email communication with consumers.
Service carriers have made a great deal of money on text messages, a service consumers demanded at a very small cost to provide. Different pricing programs may help keep text messages the more preferred form of communication until the next big wave splashes ashore. Until then, CU L8TR.