Welcome!

.NET Authors: Lori MacVittie, Sandi Mappic, Ivan Antsipau, JP Morgenthal, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Wireless, Java, SOA & WOA, Web 2.0, iPhone, BlackBerry Developer

Wireless: Article

What’s Next for Texting?

Before we plot the future of texting, it’s helpful to understand its history

Twenty years ago, a software engineer named Neil Papworth kicked off the holidays - and a communications revolution - by sending the world's first text message via phone. The message, appropriately enough, was "Merry Christmas."

It took a few more Christmases before text messaging caught on, but ever since we've been able to send text messages to subscribers on different mobile operator networks, it has been nothing but thumbs up for texting. Thanks to the rise in mobile subscriptions, the usage of texting has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2011, for the first time in history, text messaging surpassed voice as the most popular application for mobile phones.

And then the unexpected happened: the number of text messages sent in the U.S. actually declined between the second and third quarter of 2012, according to published reports. It was a small decline, mind you, on the scale of two percent or so. For a technology where quantum annual leaps in usage have been the norm, however, a two-percent decline has the potential to be huge.

Let's make a few assumptions, including that the report is accurate (and it is worth noting that some don't agree). Let's also assume this isn't a one-time anomaly. What does a slight decline really mean? There are a few popular theories:

Theory #1: We've reached a saturation point for text messaging.
There are always some people who will grow tired of a technology after a few years, whether it's text messaging or social media. (Remember when people were leaving Facebook a few years ago?) Text messaging continues to rise where it counts. Younger demographics, like 12-to-15-year-olds who represent the paying customers of tomorrow, continue to be text junkies.

Theory #2: New apps like Skype are eating into the texting market.
Skype poses more of a threat to traditional voice services - not surprising since that's what it was originally designed to displace. The Skype application has to be loaded on the device and active to have a conversation. Text messaging uses a standards-based protocol, so any device assigned a mobile number can send and receive text messages right out of the box.

Theory #3: Text messaging is getting too expensive.
Pay-per-use plans may have kept more people with their thumbs and cash in their pockets. Operators responded with fixed-price, unlimited-usage plans. In the U.S., you can get unlimited calling and texting for under $40 a month, making it affordable to practically anyone.

The fourth possibility is one I see in my own household. Texting is no longer constrained to communications between mobile networks. Many devices are able to send and receive text messages through an Internet connection. Apple's iMessage or Blackberry Messenger are great examples of this trend.

In fact, text messaging has never really stopped evolving. The idea of measuring the value of text messaging by the quantity of messages sent over the mobile network may ultimately sell the technology short.

Before we plot the future of texting, it's helpful to understand its history. Texting grew out of a technology known as Short Message Service (SMS). SMS originally allowed a person to send data-based communications to a mobile phone over the signaling channel rather than the more bandwidth-precious media channel. In fact, in the beginning, mobile phones could not send SMS messages. Nokia was the first manufacturer with a suite of GSM phones to support SMS messaging. Finally as the 20th century came to a close, you were able to send text messages between mobile networks, ushering in the any-to-any text messaging environment that we enjoy today.

In 2000, the average U.S. mobile phone user sent nearly 35 text messages per month. By 2007, text messages outnumbered phone calls. And in 2011, text eclipsed voice as the top application for mobile devices in the U.S. Despite the rapid rise in popularity, the underlying technology behind texting remained largely unchanged. Texts still relied on SMS and limited communications to the same 160-character confines established (somewhat arbitrarily) more than two decades ago. Innovation hasn't been the driver for the adoption of this communication method. Rather, texting's popularity can be traced to contributing market factors, few of which were imagined 20 years ago.

Smartphones, Social Media and Number Portability
Text messaging on a standard cellphone was hit or miss, which meant you hoped you hit the right key when typing your message. Then came BlackBerries and iPhones - smartphones that combined the elements of a laptop computer (complete with an operating system and independent keyboard) and a mobile phone. Suddenly, millions of people were finding a new use for those opposable thumbs. The convenience of texting combined with the constant presence of smartphones (unlike laptops, smartphones seldom leave our sides) made it a preferred choice over traditional email. Early studies proved that people were more likely to read a text rather than an email.

Social media platforms, notably Twitter, also played to the strengths of text messaging by encouraging short, frequent communications in favor of longer, fewer conversations. In fact, Twitter even found SMS to be a bit longwinded, trimming the maximum length of a tweet to a svelte 140 characters. People rediscovered their pithy side as vowels slowly began disappearing from the language, all the while fueling the legitimacy of texting as a form of creative and personal expression.

A less obvious but no less important factor in the rise of texting was the creation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This act allows consumers to keep their phone numbers when choosing a new Communications Service Provider (CSP) - even when switching from a wireline to a wireless provider. By allowing phone customers to move their phone numbers freely between CSPs, Americans had unprecedented freedom of communication. Mobile phones, once viewed as a supplemental service to a primary landline, instead became the primary phone service for many customers who found they could keep their identity and cut their costs by going mobile 24/7. In a world where smartphones have an average lifespan of two years, the ability to upgrade your phone and change your service without changing your phone number can't be undervalued.

Texting: The Next 20 Years
I don't believe texting is going away. Anyone with teenage children knows exactly what I mean. Rather, I think it's changing to become a more ubiquitous form of communication. You see, we live in a world where communications overload is a fact of life. We have RSS feeds at the bottom of our TV screens, we text while we talk, we carry phones with built-in video cameras. In a world where everyone is making noise, the challenge is to rise above the noise. And I think that's where texting fits in the future: as a way to cut through the noise.

Take for example a technology like Common Short Codes (CSCs), which can replace a standard phone number with a four-digit number for the purpose of sending text messages. You've seen these used on television programs that encourage audience voting (e.g., American Idol, Dancing with the Stars), but CSCs are increasingly being purchased by businesses to aid in text-based marketing efforts. Right now, you're probably thinking - Great, more marketing, just what the world needs. In fact, text-based marketing is exactly what the world needs. This form of marketing allows businesses and their customers to have meaningful conversations based on customer-selected criteria. In other words, you're not just another name on an email distribution list. With CSC-based marketing, consumers select the kind of communications they receive, how they receive them and engage businesses on their own terms.

For the time being, text messaging has a distinct advantage over other forms of communication when it comes to consumer marketing. On the one hand, they're less intrusive than voice calls, which are often perceived as cold (in the case of pre-recorded calls) or overly aggressive live calls. And, because the industry has set guidelines for the use of text messaging, issues like spamming have so far proven to be limited.

When I talk to CSPs, I hear excitement in their voices when they talk about the future of text messaging. They see texting as a real revenue driver, especially from business customers who are just beginning to explore the value of mobile communications. These CSPs understand that communication isn't about which service you use the most (texting, voice, video) but how you use those services to stay connected to the world around you.

Is texting over the hill at 20? Doubtful. As a society, we are hooked on the direct and real-time communication enabled by texting. Our mobile devices unlock a world of possibilities and the deciding factor is typically convenience. In the first 20 years of SMS, we went from a simple intra-network "Merry Christmas" to accessibility on any network. It is possible that the next 20 years will bring us ubiquitous texting across many applications including personal communications, opt-in business uses and a burgeoning machine-to-machine environment.

More Stories By Gary Zimmerman

Gary Zimmerman is Senior Director of Marketing at Neustar. He and his team deliver the educational and outbound marketing efforts for Carrier Services. He has over 30 years of experience in telecommunications management in both the carrier and enterprise setting.

Gary spent twenty years at AT&T where he developed ordering, billing, and international clearinghouse systems. He has successfully launched and managed products including international data services for global 500 companies, a software-as-a-service offering in Japan, and data networking / security offerings for the mid-market.

Prior to joining Neustar, Gary was a Vice President and founding member of an enterprise software company that grew into a $30 million dollar concern during his tenure.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, will describe how to revoluti...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, will discuss how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money! Speaker Bio: Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, has spent 16 years as a marketing, product management, and busin...
Samsung VP Jacopo Lenzi, who headed the company's recent SmartThings acquisition under the auspices of Samsung's Open Innovaction Center (OIC), answered a few questions we had about the deal. This interview was in conjunction with our interview with SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson. IoT Journal: SmartThings was developed in an open, standards-agnostic platform, and will now be part of Samsung's Open Innovation Center. Can you elaborate on your commitment to keep the platform open? Jacopo Lenzi: Samsung recognizes that true, accelerated innovation cannot be driven from one source, but requires a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash Inc., will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.
BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic • Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it’s a mix of architectural style...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SOA Software, an API management leader, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SOA Software is a leading provider of API Management and SOA Governance products that equip business to deliver APIs and SOA together to drive their company to meet its business strategy quickly and effectively. SOA Software’s technology helps businesses to accelerate their digital channels with APIs, drive partner adoption, monetize their assets, and achieve a...
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Utimaco will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Utimaco is a leading manufacturer of hardware based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. Only Utimaco delivers a general-purpose hardware security module (HSM) as a customizable platform to easily integrate into existing software solutions, embed business logic and build s...
Connected devices are changing the way we go about our everyday life, from wearables to driverless cars, to smart grids and entire industries revolutionizing business opportunities through smart objects, capable of two-way communication. But what happens when objects are given an IP-address, and we rely on that connection, sometimes with our lives? How do we secure those vast data infrastructures and safe-keep the privacy of sensitive information? This session will outline how each and every connected device can uphold a core root of trust via a unique cryptographic signature – a “bir...
Internet of @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley announced on Thursday its first 12 all-star speakers and sessions for its upcoming event, which will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. @ThingsExpo, the first and largest IoT event in the world, debuted at the Javits Center in New York City in June 10-12, 2014 with over 6,000 delegates attending the conference. Among the first 12 announced world class speakers, IBM will present two highly popular IoT sessions, which will take place November 4-6, 2014 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, will discuss how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Spansion Inc. (NYSE: CODE), a global leader in embedded systems, today added 96 new products to the Spansion® FM4 Family of flexible microcontrollers (MCUs). Based on the ARM® Cortex®-M4F core, the new MCUs boast a 200 MHz operating frequency and support a diverse set of on-chip peripherals for enhanced human machine interfaces (HMIs) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The rich set of periphera...

SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue business and deliver exceptional experiences to their customers.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.