Future of SMS

Mobile phones first facilitated wireless voice chats that for many have made landline connections obsolete for all but home broadband. However, it was the arrival of SMS texting on mobiles which really caught on with the public, allowing everyone from teens to grandparents to get in touch with one another discretely and instantly. While texts are still sent by their billions each year, with UK users being some of the most prolific texters in the world, there is an argument that the future of SMS is in peril.

The thing which is putting SMS under threat is the gradual permeation of instant messaging services onto mobile phones. Perhaps the most famous platform-specific example of this is BlackBerry Messenger, but other services such as MSN messenger and Yahoo! Messenger have made their way to mobiles from the web over the years. So far SMS is still going strong, but in late 2011 this could all change.

There are two main factors that are likely to change the way SMS is used in the UK. The first is the arrival of Apple`s iOS5, which will bring with it a new app called iMessage. This will allow owners of Apple devices, from the iPod Touch to the iPad, to get in touch with one another via inter-device instant messaging. Much like BlackBerry Messenger this will only be available to Apple users, but since the iPhone range is one of the best selling smartphone families on the planet there should be no shortage of friendship groups available.

The second factor which could sound the death knell for SMS is that social networking site Facebook is bringing its chat function to mobile devices. It is already available on tablets like the BlackBerry Playbook and US iPhone owners can now download the first official app which supports this instant messaging service. Since many people have hundreds of Facebook friends and they can all use chat from their desktops, laptops and now mobiles, there is a strong argument that traditional SMS conversations will be consigned to the history books.

Of course there is a desire for instant messaging which defies the boundaries of platform and carrier, which is why instant messaging services like WhatsApp, which are compatible with everything from an iPhone to a Nokia handset, are becoming more popular. Enabling features like group chats for multiple users to get in on the conversation is a big bonus and because there is no real limit on the type of compatible device you can be sure that all of your mates will be able to get to you at the same time.

You might assume that SMS will become a relatively obscure function on mobiles, always `there` and available, but like waterproof MP3 players something that only appeals to a small audience. Nothing is written in stone and instant messaging will have a tough time eclipsing the humble text as the primary form of mobile communication, but there is definitely change in the air.


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