back to article Peak txt: 1.5 billion more chat app msgs sent than SMSes a day

WhatsApp, BlackBerry Messenger and other online chat apps handled more messages than telcos handled texts, says market research biz Informa. And by the end of 2013, the number of online messages will be double the number of SMS texts, leaving the phone network operators scrabbling for revenue. Informa pegged 2012's global SMS …


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  1. Andrew Baines Silver badge

    Glad to see the back of them.

    I get one valid text per week - from the council telling me which dustbin they're collecting. All the others are 'no win no fee' or insurance scams.

    By the time you have email, Skype, BBM, plus other IM, something's got to go.

    1. Ken Y-N
      Paris Hilton

      The council text you when they come to empty your bins?

      My little brain cannot cope with that concept. I'm genuinely curious why you find that valid, which implies useful.

      1. Kristian Walsh

        Re: The council text you when they come to empty your bins?

        Not the OP, but my bin collection service does the same thing, and it's very useful.

        Your situation is most likely different, so the usefulness of this isn't obvious, but here's how it works:

        1. There are different bins, for different things (rubbish, glass, recyclable materials, electrical or hazardous, etc.)

        2. Every week, the collection service takes a subset of these bins.

        3. The subset is different for each week in a four, five or six week cycle, depending on the operator.

        You can either:

        a. memorise the pattern and hope they don't change it.

        b. every evening, find and consult the chart that the collection service has sent you

        c. wait for the text that they send the night before, and then put out the necessary bins.

        Not difficult.

        1. Ken Y-N
          Thumb Up

          I see, that seems useful!

          I have a chart posted on my wall, but I still have to look at a calendar to cross-check if this is the second or fourth Friday of the month.

          Hmm, might indeed be a useful web service for someone to hack together...

      2. Uncle Siggy
        Thumb Up

        Re: The council text you when they come to empty your bins?

        Here in Puget Sound (Seattle), our regional transportation system sends me a text message when a bus or train goes kaput or has been delayed, but only for the lines I'm interested in. A bit ironic though to get a text telling you that the train you've been sitting on for a quarter of an hour, motionless, has been stalled. Thumbs up because it could be worse.

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Glad to see the back of them.

      I've been using SMS back since the days you couldn't message someone on a different network, yet I've never received a spam text of any sort......

  2. thesykes

    Surely most people get SMS messages bundled into their contract or PAYG tariff? I get thousands a month in mine, and I'd be surprised if I sent more than a dozen this year.

    Presumably networks bundle a charge for these texts within the tariff, if you don't use them, they get money for nothing.

    1. JB

      May be true in the UK, but here is the good ole' US of A you get a measly 200 a month on the tariff I'm on, which you pay $5 a month for, and your count goes down one not only when you send one, but when you receive one as well. It's no surprise that my wife and I, and a good many of our family and friends, have gone over to WhatsApp.

    2. Annihilator

      True, but they'll still be assigning value to them (along with minutes and data). It's just a gradually outdated model which will evolve over time.

      I doubt the Telcos are worried - they'll merely adjust their formulas. The basic cost of the network doesn't change, and text usage may go down, but all it will do is alter the weightings of the £15/month a customer will continue to spend.

  3. Seanie Ryan

    dont get it

    I am stuck right in the middle of IT, and I get asked every week, "how come you are not on WhatsApp" or "why dont you have viber", as though they are stunned that I , of all people, have not moved that way.

    My answer: I already have a phone humber that you can reach me on, and I have more text/minutes per month than I can use, have iMessage, and I use skype, so why would i need yet another system thats not integrated?

    1. Lee Taylor

      Re: dont get it

      Also add in the reduction in battery life as the apps hang around in the background like a bad smell

    2. as2003

      Re: dont get it

      Well, because:

      You can group chat with people who aren't on iPhones

      You can chat with people who don't have thousands of SMSs bundled with whatever package they are on

      You can chat with people in a different countries without racking up huge fees. (I doubt your included texts include texting overseas)

      Speaking of which, these TXToIP systems are much better than SMS when you're abroad (with a few caveats)

      They handle media files better. Again, I doubt MMS messages are included in your package.

      Some people, me included, prefer the UI/UX

      I could go on, but you get the picture. I'm not saying it's for everyone, but just because you can't find a use for it doesn't mean it's useless.

  4. nuked

    I'd imagine that the vast majority of SMS revenue comes from PAYG contracts which often only come with a very limited amount of 'free' SMS. Usually the data limits on such deals are very restrictive also, so SMS will likely conintue making money on such contracts, as distinct from the much pricier option of adding a data-bundle just for the purpose of sending a message through a non-SMS app.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      if you top up £15 with tesco PAYG , you also get 5000 texts, and £30.00 of voice/data free for the next month.

      Granted, international and non-geographic numbers don't count

  5. NogginTheNog
    Thumb Down

    Another app?

    I can txt anyone who gives me a phone number starting "07" (UK based example!). I don't know, or care, what handset they have. It just works. They don't log in, or have to be on wifi, or even have to have the phone turned on at the time.

    Can't see me replacing that ubiquity with any third-party application layer any time soon.

    1. Ian Yates

      Re: Another app?

      I use SMS, Google Messenger, and WhatsApp, depending on the friends involved.

      I actually prefer GM because I can start a session on my phone and continue it on my PC and back again. WhatsApp's group feature is also very useful, but (as you said) everyone has SMS so it's the default point of contact.

      The real crime here is the cost of SMS; telco's are laughing for every text they charge for.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Another app?

        "I actually prefer GM because I can start a session on my phone and continue it on my PC and back again."

        Agreed. Also, I can have my workstation at work, my computer at home, my various tablets, and my phone all on the same IM account, so whatever is closest to hand is what I can use. And when I am this big Faraday cage of a building I work in, and my phone gets no cellular signal, I can use the WiFi to do my chats.

  6. Andy_H

    With my cheap tariff I get unlimited SMS which makes it the obvious choice for me, especially as I only get 100Mb data a month - using something like iMessage or WhatsApp would use up some of the data allowance (albeit a small amount) providing I wasn't in a WiFi area.

    The only handy side I see to them is sending something other than text (images, etc), which I rarely do.

  7. Brenda McViking

    Put simply - cost

    Why are these more popular than text? because they're not artifically constrained in the same way texts are by cost. Sure, in recent years, you get many more texts for your money, but considering a text is just a 512 byte chunk of data, yet getting "unlimited" (fair use of around 5,000/month) is still paying way over the odds, even if your tarriff allows you to add that on for 5 quid, when you can get 500MB of internet for around the same.

    "Why do we need so many" I hear you decry - well, I can tell you that organising an event/night down the pub/something to do with friends over a messaging service is much easier when everyone can see what everyone else is saying. This will also vastly inflate the numbers of messages "sent" seeing as if I ask 10 friends if they want to go out tonight and they all reply yes, thats not 20 SMS messages (Me ask everyone, everyone reply), but 100, as everyone else sees everyone else's replies as well. Couple a discussion over which pub has decent ale on tap this week and you've got a few 1000 messages, and a far better turnout, which helps the (decent) brewer du jour - so with messaging services, everyone wins.

    SMS isn't going to die though, for one it works on GSM, and 3G data is still very much lacking once you're out of an urban area, (yes, GPRS can work but is flaky in my experience), and besides, teaching whatsapp to your mum is just asking for trouble, but she *has* worked out how to do this newfangled texting thing so that is reason enough for it to stay. BUT, the networks must make a killing from SMS and no doubt aren't too keen to watch that revenue stream dry up, despite IM just being a far better solution. But that's their domain, so they can do what they like, so long as they don't resort to suing 9 year olds for piracy.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Put simply - cost

      Wot she said.

      In some countries, text messages were charged at less than 1p each ten years ago, vs 10p/min for calls. It's fairly clear that the real cost of SMS messages is "too cheap to meter" (less than 0.001p apiece) and the telcos regard it as a major cash cow. I clearly recall when vodafoe started pushing SMS services as a business tool - and doubled the price overnight.

      By way of comparison, a standard GSM voice stream is several kB/second, vs 200 bytes for a text message.

  8. Dave 126 Silver badge

    I've never managed to set up MMS messaging on my handset... but then I haven't really tried very hard because I can email pictures or use Whatsapp if I need too. Battery life isn't an issue, since my phone's flavour of Android has a setting that disables data when the screen is off.

    Whatsapp I only use to keep in touch with a couple of people- for everyone else I use email, SMS or just ring them.

  9. Lee D Silver badge

    Reason? International texts

    My girlfriend is Italian. She texts her friends and family in Italy a lot - mostly because the call costs to/from a mobile are prohibitively stupid.

    No contract that's a sensible price includes decent amounts of texting/calling to/from Europe to make it worth the while compared to some pre-pay international card (even with the hassle). However, even texting from them, it adds up quickly as the texts are never cheap especially if you use more than whatever arbitrary amount they like to limit you to. Don't even get me started on her having to have two mobiles, one for Italy, one for the UK, because using the UK mobile in Italy or vice versa is so stupendously expensive.

    Honestly, we pay £25 a month for the basic phone, contract and included calls (which cover everything UK-wide that we do). She then pays £10 or more a month on top just for international calling / texting to Europe and goes through a rigmarole every time to top it up. And some months it can cost her even more than that. Bear in mind that she saves anything mundane for the daily Skype conversations she has with her parents / friends of an evening (which we don't pay for at all).

    Lately, she's started using WhatsApp Messenger from her phone. Sure, she could use Skype but it's data-heavy and limited by the telecoms companies so it can be unusable. Load all her friends on Whatsapp, pay some stupidly minimal one-off price each, done. It looks like a text, works like a text, basically is a text, and basically costs nothing per text.

    Text pricing is the biggest rip-off in the history of the world. It costs literally nothing for them to do - hell, why not just convert it to some Internet packet at the cell towers directly and save all the back-end bandwidth? You're literally sending a handful of bytes and charging pence every time, while other people are using every megabyte (HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF TIMES MORE DATA!) they are allowed to browse Facebook. It costs no more to send internationally than anywhere else (and if it does, then maybe the EU should be looking into that, given the common market, etc). But we all know that the pence add up very quickly.

    It used to be that you'd use text because a phone call would cost more and you could do it quicker with a text message. That's not been true for years. I basically stick to included text plans and not a penny more because it's such a rip-off. And now my girlfriend has got sick of trying to find a reasonable contract and does anything she can to stop giving the telcos more money. That strategy of gouging their most keen customers really works for them.

    When I can enable 3G, send hundreds of thousands of times more bytes, and it cost nothing above and beyond what I'm already paying, why should I pay for texts? It's cheaper to go on the Internet, download a webpage, submit your text on the HTTP form, have that website send your text to the number you specify and it arrive back down to the phone you sent it to, than it is to just text it direct.

    I have no sympathy. And I'll have no sympathy until they price things properly, support people's usage of their phones (i.e. stop blocking Skype or give me a reason not to use it!), and offer EU-based packages that aren't so ludicrously expensive that people are afraid to use their phones abroad (even if the telco company they use exists both at home and in the country they are going to, and probably sends all the data to their main datacenter anyway).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The best global intercept plan ever developed..

    I love the way people prefer cheap over safe. I actually had one idiot ask why his banking TAN could not be send via WhatsApp.

    To intercept an SMS, you need access to the provider in use, or if the user is roaming you could also use the interprovider gateway. But it means accessing or subverting one point, and you need to do that for every users you try to listen in to. Thanks to WhatsApp, iMessage and now some Tango thing (friends have joined up, and apparently the first thing that piece of &&%ç% does is copy the address book and then spam everyone in it), you just need to pay a visit in suit and tie with sunglasses of some US company. Ditto for voice traffic - Viber is happy to admit it doesn't bother encrypting.

    And we let them. For pennies. From when they are kids...

    1. JB
      Thumb Up

      Re: The best global intercept plan ever developed..

      I agree with you. But when 99% of WhatsApp messages are along the lines of "I'm leaving work now, pick me up outside" or "bring some milk home", I don't think it is that significant. Anyone who really wants to communicate top secret info would know not to use stuff like WhatsApp anyway, i suppose.

  11. Greg J Preece

    So what about RCS?

    Or Joyn, or whatever you want to call it. From what I understand, it's now in public trials on the continent, and even networks in the US are finally cottoning on and getting set up for it. It's not as advanced as any single IM network you could point to, but it does all the important stuff, and at a firmware level. Could it claw back that market share for the networks?

  12. thecapsaicinkid

    SMS needs to die already, horrible outdated, expensive technology. As more and more people start using tablets and other devices, SMS becomes a massive pain in the arse. I use email for the majority of my messages to friends and for the few which insist on using SMS, DeskSMS. An Android app which emails all texts to me coming in and converts emails to SMS going out. It's not 100% reliable but it means I don't have to even touch my phone when a better device is at hand (tablet/pc).

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