In recent years, the rise of instant mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger has revolutionized the way we communicate, overshadowing SMS. Is the traditional text message nearing its end? Will it join the likes of fax machines and Minitel in the pantheon of obsolete technologies? Let’s find out.
Will SMS soon be a thing of the past?
Remember the 90s, when you couldn’t walk down the street without spotting a phone booth? With the advent of mobile phones and high-speed mobile internet, phone booths gradually fell out of favor and were removed from the streets.
Is SMS destined for the same fate? It’s a valid question, considering the growing popularity of messaging apps. In the first quarter of this year, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Telegram were among the top 10 most downloaded apps on the App Store (for iPhone and iPad) and Google Play Store.
As a result, the number of SMS messages sent worldwide has been declining for several years, especially in Western countries. This year, we can expect between 4,500 and 5,000 billion messages to be exchanged.
In comparison, the figure reached 8,000 billion SMS messages in 2012—nearly half as much in just ten years. At that time, WhatsApp was an independent company, and Android Messages dominated the messaging market.
It wasn’t until 2014, when Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $20 billion, that instant messaging apps experienced significant growth. This growth came at the expense of SMS.
Why users prefer instant messaging apps
Telegram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger have become indispensable messaging platforms in just a few years. What explains their success? The primary reason is quite simple. When these services first launched, most mobile carriers charged for SMS messages sent over their networks.
Instant messaging apps completely revolutionized the mobile telecommunications market. With WhatsApp, you can send as many text messages as you like without worrying about an exorbitant bill at the end of the month (no international fees). Plus, WhatsApp can even function without a SIM card.
But that’s not all. These apps also offer a broader range of services. You can exchange not only text messages but also voice messages, videos, images, documents, or make calls—all for free and without any size restrictions.
Moreover, they come with various useful features, such as real-time location sharing and the clever checkmark system that shows if your recipient has read your message.
Thirty years after its creation, SMS has changed very little and suffers from significant technological lag. Messages are still limited to 160 characters per send, and MMS size cannot exceed 600KB.
As a result, many users have gradually abandoned SMS in favor of WhatsApp. The only requirement is that both users must have the same app installed on their smartphones to send or receive messages.