When I first got a mobile phone, playing the game snake and sending SMS were the most revolutionary things you could do. The world of mobile has come a long way since then! With the rocket propelled rise of smart-phones, the way people communicate has evolved too.  Since smart-phone’s and data plans are becoming cheaper and more accessible, messaging apps has grown too.

Rather than send a SMS, people are now embracing free services such as iPhone’s iMessage and Facetime, voice message like Talkbox, instant messaging like QQ IM and MSN, micro-blogs such as Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo, cross platform systems like Tencent Weixin or Kik. Plus, why wouldn’t you? If you pay for internet data anyway or can access WIFI, you might as well take advantage of free messaging services.

Tencent Weixin is predicted to be very dominant this year because it integrates so many features.  You can message friends for free, group chat for free, send voice messages for free, send emoticons, sync your QQ and phone book contacts and also find people around you via the location based service. You can even scan QR codes. Since there are now over 530 million registered QQ users, Weixin could crush many other players that try to enter this space.

According to Forbes, the use of SMS during the holiday season has declined. People of course like to wish each other ‘Happy new year!’ or ‘Merry Christmas’ but instead of sending a SMS like they used to, they are turning to social media like Facebook/RenRen or Twitter/Weibo. This has become especially apparent in Finland, Netherlands, Philippines, Hong Kong and China.

Spring Festival, China’s biggest Chinese holiday is quickly approaching and it will be another year to see the trend of SMS to go down and app messaging to go up. Analysis shows that although the volume of SMS is increasing, the rate of growth is declining. The growth is attributed to the increasing number of people buying mobile phones but the decrease is due to the increase of using mobile apps instead.

The trend will be bolstered by people’s awareness of how to use these apps. Many older people still like to use the mobile phone for simple calling and SMS but may not be aware of these apps. However the younger generation who will own a smart-phone before they own a computer, will be all over this technology. Even babies play with iPads now!

Since the trend will only continue, mobile operators have realized the trend and decided to jump on the bandwagon. Rather than let other service providers take over all the share of data based messaging, China Mobile released Feliao, China Telecom released Yiliao, China Unicom Woyou released  have all released their own versions.  It would be ignorant for them to trying to rescue the declining SMS business. Instead they can capitalize on the increase of internet data consumption.

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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  1. you’ve just taken this from chinese website I see before but give no link or credit so why is that?

  2. The SMS decline started around 12 months ago, at least in Australia anyway which is fairly conservative when it comes to using new technology.
    I did some analysis the other week which builds on your article http://bit.ly/tjteb7 
    While its Australian data, its likely to be similar elsewhere
    – more phone calls are made from mobiles than landlines (maybe no surprise in China which is way ahead in mobile usage)
    – we’re using the phone for calling much less
    – we’re using SMS texting less
    – we’re downloading between 200% and 300% more data than a year ago through our phones

  3. Do the math, 5.3 Billion mobile phones do primarily 2 things 1) SMS & 2) Voice. There are only 83 Million iPhones sold to date (bet you have ore than 1) that is less than 0.01% etc, etc. SMS will be here for a while the same way credit cards has not replaced cash and Skype has not replaced phones by a long shot; by the way it ain’t bad we all use SMS every day, in fact SMS is the #1 app on ALL smart phones and even iMessage use SMS on the back-end to reach the other 99.99 % of mobile phones on the planet. Yes, SMS is the Gorilla in the room last time anyone checked. 

  4. Very true, this new wave of messaging platforms on Iphone and android has really a lot of communication tycoons by a storm. We are hopeful to see some fruitful results out of this situation for consumers.

  5. The only thing going for SMS is virtually every phone supports it, otherwise Web-based IM is so much more reliable, more flexible and much cheaper. For example, not only can I use FB to chat on my phone I can also do it on any PC and I can text on Whatsapp forever and never remotely hit 100MB of data compared to the lousy 700 SMS limit I got with my plan.

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