Smartphones have revolutionized how we communicate both as individuals and businesses. Ten years ago, there were smartphones available but they were relatively inelegant, clunky, difficult to use and not especially functional. Today’s flagships are typically longer, wider but much, much thinner, contain many more radios with far more sophisticated hardware and software. And as our smartphones’ abilities have grown, so too have the applications and services that we run on our devices. It is difficult to imagine some of the bigger and more established social networks growing to be the size and popularity that they are today without ordinary folks reaching into their pockets in order to engage with the Facebooks and Twitters of this world seemingly on an hour by hour basis. Social networks and instant messages – Facebook messenger, Whatsapp, Skype, Google Hangouts, Apple iMessage, Viber – are a growing way to keep up with people. Indeed, of the estimated almost-7 billlion people in this world, Facebook has a reach of around 1.4 billion. This is an impressive statistic, especially given the relative youthfulness of the market. However, there is another service that far exceeds even Facebooks reach: the humble ubiquitous text message, or SMS (short message service) to use the industry jargon.
From a network perspective, text messages are gradually on the decline as the above, more sophisticated services gather reach amongst the developed and developing world, but there is still some considerable headway to go yet. The global SMS has an estimated reach of 5.4 billion people. And yes, that leave over 1.5 billion souls out of contact and there are a number of reasons for this. The main one is a lack of mobile or cell ‘phone, and part of this is associated with illiteracy. But for the rest of us, we are only a text message away. Text messages have another advantage over many other forms of messaging in that they are read in their entirety almost immediately upon arrival. This is something that marketing agencies are aware of and we’ve already seen how SMS marketing schemes can change the course of history, or at least a US presidential election.
The scale of SMS penetration into the global communications market illustrates the issue with ideas of removing the cellular device number from the equation and a potential issue for Internet of Things architects. Simply removing the SMS number from the equation could potentially isolate a significant number of people. For the time being, at least, it appears that the humble text message is here to stay.