The first text message was sent in 1992, which means that SMS turns 31 in 2023.
SMS messages have been a wildly popular form of contact for decades now, but things have changed since they first came about. With the introduction of a range of messaging apps that can basically do the same job, some people might think that SMS has had its day.
And yet, many people still use these messages for a range of purposes. Even if fewer people are using SMS, texting using other methods and applications is still a core way folks use their mobile phones.
So what’s next for SMS and text messaging in general? Is it disappearing or simply evolving?
SMS Is Still Popular
In some countries, the number of SMS messages sent has seen a decline. However, in the US, the general trend has been that SMS and MMS messages are gaining in numbers.
In 2005, around 80 billion messages were sent around the country, and this had reached more than 2.3 trillion by 2011.
After this peak, there was something of a decline until 2017, but then numbers began to rise again, likely at least partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, about 2 trillion SMS and MMS messages were sent in the United States, roughly 200 billion less than the previous year but still 500 billion more than in 2017.
How does this compare to mobile messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram?
This isn’t necessarily as easy to measure, as there are multiple apps that are used in different ways, and not all of them reveal how many messages their users send.
We do know that Facebook Messenger is the most used in the US, but worldwide there are more than 2 billion WhatsApp users and 1.3 billion users of the app WeChat, which is popular in China.
In terms of preference for text messaging, the majority of millennials prefer it for communication because it enables them to check their phone when they want to.
AI Is Changing Text Messaging
Text messaging is still important for a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean it’s exactly the same as it was 30 years ago. It’s still changing as technology evolves, and it hasn’t escaped the effects of artificial intelligence.
AI is changing text messaging by introducing new tools and features that change how people can compose their messages. AI isn’t exactly new in messaging apps.
Autocorrect and speech-to-text are just two of the ways many people have already benefited from AI when using messaging apps. However, AI is now being used in more ways, particularly with generative AI technology.
Several messaging apps have added AI chatbots to their tools and services. For example, Snapchat added My AI, which is powered by OpenAI’s language model. The chatbot was released as a way for users to get advice about social situations and obligations.
In the first two months after its release, more than 150 million people sent 10 billion messages asking for ideas, advice, recommendations, and more. Meta is also working on AI-powered digital assistants for Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Google is doing things slightly differently with its messaging app. With Magic Compose, users can choose to get suggestions when they’re writing or even rewrite messages in a different tone.
The tool has launched in beta in the Google Messages app, helping to inspire users to start conversations in the right way and put some creativity in the messages they write.
Text Messages Are Still an Important Business Tool
Text messaging is used by many people for personal reasons, but it’s also a great tool for businesses too. Businesses and other organizations use both SMS messages and app-based messages to communicate with their customers and their staff.
The SMS marketing industry is expected to grow to $12.6 billion by 2025. Most customers want to receive text messages from companies. Text messages have a higher click-through rate that emails. SMS marketing has a response rate of 45% as compared to 6% for email.
It is important to consider the different ways businesses use text messaging, and whether sending unsolicited text messages is acceptable. The sending of marketing messages is heavily regulated in various jurisdictions and many disapprove of sending messages without consent due to privacy reasons and more.
Brands like mass texting service Text-Em-All do not allow unwanted text and, as such, don’t permit SMS marketing, promotional, political, or fundraising messages. They offer SMS messaging as a communication tool between organizations and their staff or customers.
Some of the ways their service is used include communicating with staff in healthcare facilities, sending appointment reminders to patients, and communicating with church congregations.
Text Messaging Scams Are Putting People at Risk
Personal security is a big concern where the future of text messaging is concerned. One of the reasons text messaging has recently been in the news frequently is that many people have fallen victim to scam messages.
In 2022, US consumers lost $330 million to fraudulent text messages, an increase of $131 million from 2021.
The most common type of scam was copycat bank fraud, in which scammers impersonate a bank pretending that there is a problem with a transaction.
Once they get a response, they then call and pretend to be a bank representative to scam the person out of their money. Other popular scams include bogus gifts and deliveries, fake job offers, and Amazon security alerts.
This has led to many people calling on banks to take action and help prevent this type of fraud. However, users can also use various apps to block spam texts and robotexts to help prevent fake messages from getting through.
Text messaging isn’t going anywhere just yet. Both SMS messaging and the use of messaging apps are still popular and allow people to communicate in the ways that they prefer.