Skip to main content

Is it the end of the road for SMS?

man yelling shouting screaming at cell phone
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It’s been a long time coming, but cheaper alternatives might be putting the final nails in the traditional text message’s coffin. Skype’s $85 million acquisition of GroupMe only reinforced the belief that the SMS is about to become a thing of the past.

You had a good run, and were inarguably addictive. But it’s starting to look like SMS was just a gateway drug for the good stuff. Sure, we have the original SMS to thank for all of the superior applications it has inspired, however here are three reasons why the text message, as we knew it, is on the way out.

Security – rise of the BBM clones

RIM was among the first to encrypt the text message and make it an exclusive package for BlackBerry users. Using the smartphone’s Internet connection, these private and secure messages were accessible regardless of mobile network coverage and allowed for group chatting sessions. Despite the brand’s reputation as the dinosaur of smartphones (an image RIM is actively trying to shed), it got this right, and BBM remains arguably the most loved and leveraged feature of BlackBerries.

But the competition has caught on. Apple announced that its release of iOS 5 would include an application called iMessage. The iOS-to-iOS exclusive messaging system means you can send any content via the phone’s 3G or wireless connection, and easily bypass its carriers’ built-in texting plan.

We wouldn’t be surprised if WP7 isn’t working on some type of secure, exclusive messaging option as well. Skype’s acquisition of GroupMe and Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype obviously means WP7 could integrate the group texting application’s technology into its smartphones. Verizon also embeds Skype into all of its smartphones, which means GroupMe will soon be included in this free software.

Easy alternatives

messBuilt-in, OS-exclusive messaging application aren’t the only options either. The flood of smartphones in the consumer market means that non-SMS texting is available to a wide array of buyers, which opened up a whole new area of development for mobile app-makers. We’ve seen no shortage of software produced this year: Facebook Messenger, TextPlus, Google Chat, Disco, Beluga, Kik, Google+’s Huddle feature, and of course, GroupMe, are just a few popular alternatives.

There are caveats to using some of these apps and entirely abandoning carrier-provided texting. For instance, Facebook Messenger and Google Chat (or G+’s Huddle) only can communicate with people that also have Google or Facebook accounts. But if you really want to save money and put your network in its place, free apps offer solutions.


The traditional text message might stand a chance if carriers weren’t charging so much. People like easy, and using built-in, familiar software is very, very easy. But consumers have long been raging over the ever-increasing prices – and the technology behind those escalating costs doesn’t justify the rates. Text messages cost next to nothing for wireless carriers to send across their networks, but users’ attachment to SMS is why they’ve been able to charge so much for it. Did you know that a one minute voice phone call or message uses more data than five hundred text messages?

While text messaging rakes in the big bucks for carriers, its use is declining as we’re all catching on. Users are abandoning SMS because it costs too much (AT&T just upped its unlimited plan to a whopping $20 a month) and there are ways to use a similar service without feeling that pain. Let’s face it: You can’t beat free. 

Top image courtesy of Chad Zuber / Shutterstock

Editors' Recommendations

Molly McHugh
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Before coming to Digital Trends, Molly worked as a freelance writer, occasional photographer, and general technical lackey…
Classic BlackBerries are finally losing suppport as company shuts down services
BlackBerry Key2. Credits: BlackBerry official.

After kickstarting the smartphone era, BlackBerry's classic devices and services are finally shutting down. No, not the Android-powered modern BlackBerries such as the KeyOne, Key2, and Key2 LE, but anything that ran a BlackBerry-branded operating system. Whether this is a classic QWERTY keyboard powered by BlackBerry 7, or the iPhone-inspired BlackBerry 10, or even the forgotten BlackBerry PlayBook OS -- it's all shutting down this month.
"As another milestone in the BlackBerry journey, we will be taking steps to decommission the legacy services for BlackBerry 7.1 OS and earlier, BlackBerry 10 software, BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.1, and earlier versions, with an end of life or termination date of January 4, 2022," the company announced. "As of this date, devices running these legacy services and software through either carrier or Wi-Fi connections will no longer reliably function, including for data, phone calls, SMS, and 911 functionality. We have chosen to extend our service until then as an expression of thanks to our loyal partners and customers."
BlackBerry bids farewell to its longtime customers. Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
It's the end of an era for what was once a distinguished product that defined the market a decade ago. Even predating iMessage, the BlackBerry instant messaging service -- BBM -- was a great selling point for the product line. As iOS, Android, and WhatsApp began to dominate, BlackBerry devices began to fall by the wayside.
The company tried to rejuvenate its smartphone business by launching its own touchscreen phones and later its own operating system in 2013, but had little success. Unable to keep up,ity stopped the creation of smartphones in 2016 and licensed services to TCL Ltd. between 2016 to 2020. BlackBerry promised to launch a smartphone by the end of 2021 in partnership with OnwardMobility, but that hasn't panned out. 
The company has now shifted its focus to selling software. It briefly had a nostalgia-fueled increase in its share price this year, which later nearly returned to its original price. While the market has been saturated with multiple companies claiming a stake in the smartphone pie, hopefully, BlackBerry manages to return to some form of relevance with its current partnership. 

Read more
WhatsApp ends support for millions of smartphones around the world

WhatsApp is no longer supported on millions of phones around the world, as the Facebook-owned messaging service moves away from older operating systems.

According to an online FAQ on its official website, WhatsApp only supports iPhones running iOS 9 or later, Android smartphones running version 4.0.3 or later, and certain phones powered by KaiOS 2.5.1 or later, including JioPhone and JioPhone 2. This includes most people using the service on recently released smartphones with updated operating systems.

Read more
Kik Messenger shuts down as Kik focuses on embattled cryptocurrency

Kik Interactive has announced it is shutting down its Kik Messenger app in order to focus on its embattled Kin cryptocurrency.

The death of the popular messaging service will likely come as a shock to many of its users, but Kik CEO Ted Livingston paints it as an inevitability. According to his post, Kik Interactive had been losing money for a long time, and shutting down Kik Messenger is only part of what Kik Interactive is doing to stem the bleed of money from its coffers. Along with shutting down the messaging app, Kik Interactive is also reducing itself to an elite 19 person team -- a change that will effect over 100 employees.

Read more