Chat app messaging overtakes SMS texts

Instant messaging on chat apps, such as WhatsApp, has overtaken traditional SMS text messaging for the first time says research firm Informa.

Informa said that almost 19 billion messages were sent per day on chat applications in 2012, compared with the 17.6 billion SMS texts sent per day.

This shift in how we interact with others is likely to have a big impact on mobile phone operators, for whom text messaging  is a key revenue source.

Pamela Clark-Dickson of Informa said that some operators were already “seeing a decline in their messaging revenues”., and according to separate estimates put together by research firm Ovum, around $23bn (£15bn) of revenue was lost in 2012 due to the growing popularity of chat applications.

Informa said that it expected the messaging on chat apps to grow even further in the coming years, projecting that nearly 50 billion messages will be sent per day by those using such applications in 2014 as opposed to people sending 21 billion text messages in the same period.

However, it said that despite the growing gap between the two services, SMS will continue to remain a key player in the sector.

“There is a lot of life still in SMS,” said Ms Clark-Dickson of Informa.

She went on to explain that most of the chat apps were used by consumers who own smartphones. However, she said, there are a large number of consumers, especially in emerging and lesser developed economies, who use normal mobile phones and rely on SMS as the preferred messaging tool.

“They don’t have mobile data plans, so there is an awfully big base of mobile phone users who are going to still find that SMS is the best messaging experience for them for a while,” she added.

At the same time, she said that businesses were starting to look at SMS more seriously, as it can be used on all mobile phones and they do not need smartphones to use it.

“There are a few things that, I think, will keep the SMS alive for a few years yet.”

Informa expects SMS revenue to grow to $127bn by 2016, from $115bn last year.