Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

Summary: Text messages used to be everything to the Generation Y. Though millions are sent each day, is the humble text message's shelf life about to expire?

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Text messaging used to be the be-all and end-all for the Generation Y.

Back in the days where the Nokia 3310 reigned as the top phone, used by every kid in the school playground, it was the most powerful, friendly phone on the market.

Not a single kid used the phone to actually call people. It was too expensive for our meagre pocket money allowance . Calls only came through when parents wanted to see where you were in time for dinner. Texts were 10 pence a shot -- or if you were lucky, and using the  brand new breakaway mobile network -- all of 3 pence.

But over time, simple phones developed plug-in cameras, polyphonic ringtones and multimedia messaging. Cameras were then built into mobile phones and before we knew it, WAP had died out and our phones had colour screens and even email.

And then the twenty-first century happened, and everything changed.

Now with the vast swathes of social media, and all other forms of one-to-one and mass communication -- even Skype and video calling -- the text message has arguably become obsolete. Yet, having said that, it is still used by nearly a quarter of the world's population.

(Image via Flickr)

Though Facebook Messenger wants to rid the world of text messaging for good, one of its crucial functions to increase its 750 million following is using the obsolete technology itself.

Text messaging still rakes in millions of dollars in revenue for U.S. mobile network operators. Operators arguably make more from data plans -- which seem to be overtaking the text messaging ratio.

People use more data nowadays than they do in volume of text messages. Having said that, data under a set limit per month is free and inclusive. Text messaging is the same. I get 750 text messages a month. I would never, ever reach that limit. On the flip side, I struggle to use any more than 500MB per month on my data tariff -- even with the vast bulk of socially connected applications and data-hungry features on my BlackBerry.

But the reason why so many people use text messages still -- particularly younger people -- is because it is an always-on, reliable form of communication. Sure, the very vast majority of the Generation Y use Facebook -- but it is a closed system. You can only communicate by mutual agreement of 'friendship' -- whatever that is, nowadays; arguably watered down through this technological revolution.

But text messaging is still there. You cannot turn it off. You are barely restricted by it. If you can say what you want in a tweet, then you are lucky to have an extra twenty characters to play with in a text message. Add a smiley face or a few kisses.

The two basic functions of any phone is to make calls and send texts. That's it. There is barely a network-connected mobile device on the planet that does not send or receive text messages.

But as data-hungry applications, from instant messengers to social networking applications take over, there is no doubt that the days of the text message are numbered.

Arguably, one can say the same about email. "If we have Facebook, why do we still have email? We have Facebook email, after all". Just because something appears to do more than what a previous technology did, does not mean that the technology is automatically discarded.

Text messages may be obsolete, but they are yet to become truly redundant. For now, I see text messages as 'the ultimate fallback'.

While they still offer purpose, even if they are relegated to the ranks of the 'last option available', then I see no reason for them to fall into the floppy disk category of dead technologies.

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Topics: Mobility, Collaboration, Hardware, Telcos, Social Enterprise

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16 comments
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  • RE: Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

    what the hell...pence? ummm the internet is American...plan accordingly
    mcrommert
  • RE: Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

    You can tell its a slow news day when bloggers are blogging about the meaning of text messages
    mcrommert
    • RE: Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

      @mcrommert You read it. Maybe you should get back to work, slacker.
      I12BPhil
    • RE: Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

      @mcrommert
      and declaring SMS messaging on life support no less! Sheesh...my teens average 1500 SMS texts per month...
      I wish it'd die, but I don't see that happening. Much less
      moving from SMS back to some instant messaging app
      like AIM.
      wizard57m-cnet
  • RE: Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

    Texting still has its purpose. You have two different lists, you have your phone contacts and you have your facebook contacts. For those people who don't have facebook then mobile is a great way to send them a quick note. Personally I don't like mixing contact lists with other ones.
    LoverockDavidson
  • Text messaging has lots of life!

    Saying text messaging is dying is like saying public transit is killing the personal automobile!<br><br>Cellular plans here in North America (Canada, Mexico, and the US) almost universally offer unlimited text messaging. And as you say, it's always on. Text messaging is a hugely popular gateway to social media. Facebook and Twitter feeds received via text message, while updates and DMs can be posted via text message.<br><br>Yes smartphones , like the Blackberry (Canadian made) with there always on Internet and BBM service would seem to lead users to think texting is old school. But lets see you BBM your friend with a Nokia, or an iPhone. Texting is the lowest common denominator. And again as you stated, every mobile device can text, which is another way of saying universal compatibility.
    emperordemus@...
  • RE: Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

    Texting won't die because it is widely used and extremely popular and convenient.
    Bates_
    • RE: Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

      @Bates_ That's what I hope!
      zwhittaker
      • RE: Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

        @zwhittaker I still can't get all my friends on Facebook, so there is no way that texting is going to just disappear. Getting everyone on one IM client is impossible, and not every phone service allows data connections. I doubt texting will die anytime soon, it may be enhanced with IM integration, but there will still be texting available.
        grayknight-22253692004129760887070084760051
  • RE: Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

    I think of text messaging as a 'polite' way of contacting someone when you don't know where they are, who they're with, and what they're doing. Rather than potentially interrupting their activity, I simply send a text message, at which point they can reply back on their own time.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

      @Cylon Centurion that is exactly why I love text messaging. I can respond to questions quickly and keep doing what I am doing with minimal interruption. Also, texting allows private conversations to occur without worrying about people overhearing it.
      grayknight-22253692004129760887070084760051
  • RE: Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

    This has got to be the dumbest thing I've seen in awhile.
    "this" <--- is text, not sound, hand gestures, or braille.
    It's popularity is simple to explain. The people you communicate to with it can't see or hear you and gain additional information beyond what you want to convey to them with those senses. How it is presented does not make it a different thing, it is all text.
    Sqrly
  • I must be the outlier...

    "There is barely a network-connected mobile device on the planet that does not send or receive text messages."

    I have texting disabled on my phone (a Droid Incredible that I use for both business an personal communications).

    I have never had any use for that type of communications and got tired of receiving spam texts. Called my carrier and had texting disabled on my account. Never looked back.
    sismoc
  • RE: Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

    Believe it or not there are folks like me who are not on Facebook. I absolutely do not like the cavalier approach to our privacy. As a result, I text and email extensively. Texting dead? Not a chance.
    naraiz
  • RE: Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

    Texting is dying? I say the opposite: voice is dying, especially if you also throw in other non-verbal means of communication such as IMs, and yes, Facebook. I spent a grand total of 90 minutes on the phone last month, 80 of which were tech support for various things. Obviously, business calls don't apply, but consumers rarely have a need to actually call somebody in this day and age...and when they do, it's usually "Why didn't you answer my text".
    Aerowind
    • RE: Text messaging: The 20th century technology that just won't die

      @Aerowind If someone sends me a text, they'll get a response. If they call me, I'm rarely available to take a call, and I really dislike voicemail because it is so slow.
      grayknight-22253692004129760887070084760051