Text messaging has arguably eliminated the need for phone calls on a day-to-day basis. It has enabled users to communicate concise messages without sitting through forced (and sometimes painful) conversations. But with texting alternatives such as Apple’s iMessage are gaining popularity, will text messaging soon become obsolete? According to a report published Monday, American cell phone carriers are seeing a decline in the number of text messages sent by each customer on a monthly basis.
The data comes from Chetan Sharma, an independent mobile analyst and wireless carrier consultant, who wrote that the number of text message exchanges in the U.S. had dropped by about 2 percent in the third quarter. This may not seem like a significant drop, but it’s a sharp difference from the steady growth that text messaging had previously seen. Sharma says it’s too early to tell if this is the beginning of a decline, but it is the first time that text messaging has begun to dwindle in the United States.
Texting saw a noteworthy boost in 2011, when 2 trillion texts were sent in the U.S. by the year’s end. This marked a 14 percent increase from 2010, according to Forrester Research, which also notes that 6 billion messages were sent per day throughout the country last year.
This current decrease in SMS usage, which stands for “Short Message Service,” a service enabled by cell phone carriers, can largely be attributed to the rise of text messaging alternatives.
One such platform is Apple’s iMessage, which operates almost exactly like a text message but only communicates between Apple devices. Therefore, iMessage completely bypasses the carrier when sending text messages between iPhones.
Another perpetrator could be Facebook’s Messenger app, which essentially exists as the mobile presence for the social network’s instant messaging feature. Unlike iMessage, Facebook’s Messenger app can be used across multiple platforms, which could give it an advantage when it comes to text messaging alternatives.
Does this mean the era of texting is coming to an end? Not exactly. Texting is still a huge part of the way people communicate via mobile devices, but the emergence of these new messaging options could hopefully lead the way toward cheaper texting plans.