The decline and fall of texting
The number of traditional SMS text messages has dropped for the first time ever, hinting at a major shift in mobile communications.
This post comes from Quentin Fottrell at partner site MarketWatch.
One of the ironies of cellphone use in recent years has been the decline of voice minutes in favor of text messages and emails. Phone calls became a secondary function of phones. But now Americans are sending fewer texts as well, leaving some to wonder: What are people using their phones for?
For the first time ever, the number of texts sent by U.S. customers dropped, according to a report published this week by Chetan Sharma, an independent mobile analyst and consultant. Though the decline is slight -- down 3% to an average of 678 texts a month in the third quarter -- it hints at a major shift in mobile communications.
As the traditional SMS text message falls out of favor, all those LOLs are probably just moving onto other platforms, such as Apple's iMessage and other services that send missives over the Internet, experts say. "Customers are moving onto more advanced ways to text," says technology analyst Jeff Kagan.
Free apps like Viber, Jaxtr SMS and iMessage offer more features than traditional texts and tend to be cheaper to use.
Texts represent a major source of revenue for wireless carriers, which sometimes charge as much as 20 cents for a single text message -- transmissions said to cost the companies just a few cents.
In fact, earlier this year, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson expressed his concern about the decline in text messages. "You lie awake at night worrying about what is that which will disrupt your business model," he said. "Apple iMessage is a classic example. If you're using iMessage, you're not using one of our messaging services, right?" (AT&T's wireless-data business remains "robust" and saw an annual increase of 18% to $6.6 billion in the third quarter of 2012, according to Mark Siegel, a company spokesman.)
The rise of hybrid voice/instant messaging services may be another death knell for the humble text. Google Voice allows subscribers to send and receive free text messages on their mobile phones as long as all texts are sent and received through each user's Google Voice number rather than the number provided by the carrier. Google Voice users can also send free texts by speaking into the phone.
Likewise, Apple's voice-activation service Siri will transcribe voice messages via iMessage -- but only if the recipient has iMessage installed too.
"There's less need to spend an extra $20 or $30 a month on text-messaging plans," says Linda Barrabee, an analyst with market researcher NPD Group.
Since messaging is now being done over the Internet, wireless carriers are looking for ways to milk more revenue out of data plans, experts say. "Texting has been a very profitable business for the carriers," Barrabee says. Verizon Wireless and AT&T are phasing out unlimited-data plans and, earlier this year, introduced shared-data plans with unlimited talk and texting. Sprint and T-Mobile, meanwhile, still have unlimited-data plans.
What's more, data is getting more expensive. Faster 4G LTE connections will boost data usage to 1.2 gigabytes a month from 500 GB on slower 3G connections, according to Validas, which analyzes wireless bills.
But consumers are getting savvier at managing their data usage, experts say. Some 80% of Android and iPhone users accessed their data over Wi-Fi in September, according to a recent report by the NPD Group. They are more dependent on their smartphones and using them on Wi-Fi, Barrabee says. In May, Time Warner, Comcast, Cablevision, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks teamed up to offer their customers access to more than 50,000 Wi-Fi hot spots.
More on MarketWatch and MSN Money:
Texting is down, is that in the same place that driving is down also? Please let me know cause if there is a place in this country where the peeps aren't texting and driving less that is where I want to be. I have heard of big foot sightings, ghosts, aliens(no not the ones from Mexico), loch ness monster etc. But have you ever seen anyone at at time under 30 without a cell phone in their hand, either texting or taking? No me neither.
Time and money are too precious to throw away texting, which for the most part is just drivel banter anyway. In our backwards little cave called home we use that internet phone you see advertized for $19.99 a YEAR; unlimited local and long distance, and free calls to anyone Worldwide with the same service. We save what, $1000 or more annually, countless hours staring a tiny screen, endless interruptions, and extortionistic bills too. If a text is absolutely necessary, there are online utilities that allow texting for free. Best of all, we are not tempted to text from the safety and comfort (sarcasm intended) of the family car. Live long and prosper =)
"all of you that say texting is bs or why dont you just call like people did before texting. do all of you live in the 50's or something seriously, texting is just another way to write and to comunicate with one another."
Ahhhh, no. Texting destroys your thumbs and eyesight. It can destroy your existence if you do it while driving. Try actual COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR MOUTH, just take your foot out before talking. As for 'just another way to communicate' it isn't. It degrades the American Language and promotes dumb code.
Texting is a nuisance and addiction. Cell phones are a nuisance and addiction. I'm not ancient, I have successful e-businesses. My worst customers use i-Phones and lack intelligence. Let's get back to Reality for once and put civilization ahead of business and marketing.
Quentin Fottrell , you have now officially become the worst columnist on the face of the earth. did you even stop for second and consider the reason for the 3 percent drop in text messages is the nation wide ban on texting while driving.
congrats Quentin Fottrell , now go back to the ostrich farm you live on and bury your head in sand.
I have unlimited minutes. How stupid do you have to be to have that, and still type?
I occasionally send my wife a little 'love note' via text. Othere than that, ain't happening!
Why in the hell can't people take up speaking to each other? All this is bs. To be able to say things don't mean to people they don't know is a decaying of societal roles. We, as a species learned to communicate verbally for a reason. It hasn't been transcended by Bill or Steve.
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