C u l8r SMS: Text messages decline in the UK for the first time as WhatsApp, Snapchat rise

Ubiquity of smartphones and cheap data has boosted the popularity of instant messaging apps but texts continue to generate significant amounts of revenue

For many of us it will feel the end of an era: last year for the first time ever the number of text messages sent in the UK fell, with internet messaging services such as WhatsApp and iMessage continuing to overtake the traditional format.

The number of texts sent using the Short Message Service (SMS) dropped from 152 billion in 2012 to 145bn in 2013, according to estimates from Deloitte, whilst the number of messages sent using internet-connected services was thought to have risen from 57bn in 2012 to 160bn in 2013.

The use of instant messaging services in the UK began with the release of BlackBerry’s BBM feature in 2006, but since then the spread of smartphones and falling data prices have encouraged a range of competitors.

Other manufacturer-specific offerings such as Apple’s iMessage service have since arrived whilst independent apps (including WhatsApp, Japanese service Line and Chinese program WeChat) have also populated the market, offering additional functionality such as desktop compatability, easy photo sharing and games.

Digital stickers have proved a particularly succesful innovation. These next-generation emoticons, where smilies are replaced by cartoon characters and pop culture figures, have proved incredibly popular in Japan, where messaging app Line makes more than $10m from stickers monthly.

Paul McCartney launched his own line of stickers for Line in 2013. McCartney attracted 3.1 million followers for the app in just four days.

However, although these apps are growing in popularity, Deloitte notes that traditional SMS messages will continue to outperform them in terms of revenue, generating more than £50 billion ($100bn) in 2014 - more than fifty times the revenue of instant messengers.

This is thanks to several factors, the most importance of which is perhaps the ubiquity of the humble text. The format is the only messaging standard common to almost every mobile phone – including older feature phones – whilst instant messengers depend on each user having installed the right app.

Facebook is one company attempting to overcome this problem by leveraging its ready-made contact list of millions, but the social network continues to suffer from a migration of younger users with apps such as Snapchat eating into its mobile footprint.

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.

However, luckily for network operators, they can rely instead on a less fickle demographic: the over 55s. Smartphone adoption is rising amongst senior citizens (it's expected to reach 68 per cent this year) but these gradual-adopters prefer to rely on SMS and calls rather than download a range of confusing apps.

It seems likely then that texting - once synonymous with a tech-savvy youth - will eventually become the domain of older users.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

    £6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: .Net / SQL Developer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A skilled .NET developer with e...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer - PC/Mac

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are cur...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee