Mobile SMS is Dying but Message Apps Are Thriving

2 min read

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.