In the wake of Apple’s iMessage, Android is reportedly working on its own free messaging service. Could 2011 be the year that SMS starts to wither and die?
Texting, originally known as Short Message System when the service started in 1985, is a golden goose for carriers. Texting was a $25 billion service in the U.S. and Canada during 2010. Every dollar consumers spend on texting equates to 80 cents of profit for companies such as AT&T or Verizon, according to UBS analysts. That compares with just 35 cents of profit for every $1 spent on voice calls or a data plan.
Monday, Apple announced iMessage, a component of the unreleased iOS 5 update which will allow texting between iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch owners similar to BlackBerry Messaging. Now comes word that Android will offer a similar service, reports the Wall Street Journal.
During the second half of 2010, carriers saw the slimmest gains in texting use since the practice caught fire about a decade ago. Although more than 1 trillion texts were sent and received during the last six months of last year, that was just 8.7 percent above the first half of 2010, according to the wireless trade group CTIA.
That single-digit growth of texting is a mirror-image of the explosive increase in app-based texting. An outlier of this can be seen in the Netherlands, where carrier KPN in April 2011 reported an 85 percent jump in the use of the free Android-based WhatsApp from 0 percent in August of 2010. In the U.S., apps such as Skype are propelling the of Internet-based messaging.
Noting the shift, carriers both hope for messaging apps to increase data plan revenue as well as fight a rear-guard battle against the inevitable. An AT&T senior vice president told the Journal texting will survive, because it allows people to send messages no matter what brand of device the recipient uses.
What it all comes down to is this: the major players are all baking in their own free messaging systems
into their mobile operating systems. Pretty soon, SMSing will be something you do only when you aren’t on the same smartphone platform as a friend or family member… and when that happens, companies like Apple and Google will have just one more incentive to lock you in for life.
What do you think? Will you be able get rid of your SMS plan in favor of iMessage? Let us know in the comments.