Texting in decline: time to say 'C u l8r' to humble SMS?

Texting

Number of texts sent in UK fell for first time last year, but experts say it's too early for obituary

LAST UPDATED AT 11:49 ON Mon 13 Jan 2014

THE news prompted a simple headline in The Guardian: "OMG!" It was an appropriate response to the idea that the humble phone text may have "passed its prime" after two decades ruling the messaging roost.

The idea that Britain has hit "Peak Text" was sparked by a report that says the number of texts sent in the UK fell for the first time last year. That's big news considering the humble text's dramatic impact on everyday life. It "transformed the English language, turned reality show voting into a national event and earned billions for mobile operators", says the Guardian.

The culprit, or rather culprits, in the text message whodunit are web-based messaging services such as Snapchat and Whatsapp. They have taken a giant bite out of the messaging market, reducing the number of texts sent last year to 145bn, a fall of 7bn.

Meanwhile, the number of messages sent using internet-connected messaging services was thought to have risen from 57bn in 2012 to 160bn in 2013, according to a report released today by accounting firm Deloitte's. The number of texts will continue to tumble, says the report, slipping to about 140bn this year.

The Daily Mail says the growing affordability of smartphones is driving the uptake of IM apps. Cheaper handsets mean even people who wouldn't normally gravitate towards new technology – pensioners, for example – are snapping them up.

Texts may have passed their prime, but they're still a viable business. SMS is worth about £60bn, says the Mail, because texts "still work in any country, on any network, on any handset".

The Independent offers its own text salute – "C u l8r SMS" – and says "for many of us it will feel like the end of an era". But it points out that it's too early to write off the text for good.

"Unless a single instant messaging app establishes dominance the marketplace for these apps is likely to continue and swing back and forth with younger users' favour," the paper says. · 

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