The rise and $23 billion fall of text messaging

Summary:What's next, a Twitter tailspin?

The latest thing in thumbs. "Chat apps" like WhatsApp overtook text messaging in 2012.

Text messaging, the 20-year-old thumb-happy talk replacement that radically changed people's communications habits and enriched cellphone carriers, is on a decline.

Mobile operators like Verizon and Vodafone lost a combined $23 billion of potential revenue in 2012 as users opted for other ways to send short notes to each other, market research firm Ovum notes, as reported by the BBC.

Many phone owners switched to "chat apps."

"Instant messaging on chat apps, such as WhatsApp, has overtaken the traditional SMS text message for the first time," writes the BBC, attributing that finding to another research firm, Informa.

Chat apps carried 19 billion missives a day in 2012 compared to 17.6 billion for texts, Informa notes.

Next year the gap will widen, to 50 billion versus 21 billion, the research firm predicts. Other chat app providers include Viber and KiK, all competing against services like Apple's iMessage, Blackberry Messenger and Facebook Chat Heads in an assault on texts, notes the Financial Times

Don't toll the bell just yet. Texting is still rising, and revenue will hit $127 billion in 2016, up from $115 billion last year, Informa forecasts. While chat apps are popular among smartphone users, consumers in emerging economies with simpler phones will keep text messaging alive for now. Businesses are also considering increasing their use of text messaging because it works on all phones.

"There are a few things that, I think, will keep the SMS alive for a few years yet," says Informa's Pamela Clark-Dickson.

A few years? Oh how the mighty will fall. What's next, a Twitter tailspin?

Image from WhatsApp

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This post was originally published on

Topics: Innovation


Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter.

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