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Has WhatsApp killed the SMS?

Friday, December 6th 2013 by Cable.co.uk
Has WhatsApp killed the SMS?
Recent figures suggests social messaging has sounded the death knell for the humble SMS.

It's something of a cliche to claim that social messaging services have sounded the death knell for the SMS, but recent developments in the mobile space mean it's becoming harder and harder to argue otherwise.

Earlier this week (2 December 2013), we reported on a survey carried out by On Device Research, which asked nearly 4,000 smartphone owners in the US, Brazil, South Africa and China how frequently they used apps like Skype on their phones.

It found that a massive 86 per cent of respondents used social messaging services on a daily basis, compared to just 75 per cent for SMS. This is particularly impressive given some of the countries included in the survey - China, for instance - tend to be viewed as emerging markets where data plans might not be so ubiquitous as in the UK and Europe.

WhatsApp was found to be the most popular instant messaging client overall, which is significant. Unlike Facebook Messenger - which ties into the social network's wider non-mobile ecosystem - it builds up a user's account and contacts based on their phone number and address book, meaning it directly usurps the SMS.

Last month (12 November), meanwhile, Informa Telecoms and Media predicted that SMS revenues worldwide will drop by 23 billion USD (£14 billion) next year - a significant sum, given it values the market at 120 million USD for 2013.

So do network operators have a plan up their sleeves to make sure the SMS continues to bring home profits? It's supposed to be a tidy little earner, after all - the cost of the bandwidth needed to send a message is negligible compared to the charges levelled at end users.

It doesn't seem that way. Not least because the advent of 4G networks have made the size of data bundles skyrocket - meaning that sending messages through services like WhatsApp, even image-based ones, are unlikely to hurt a user's allowance much.

Here in the UK, furthermore, EE and O2 have already launched 4G pay-as-you-go plans. This means consumers who're charged for each SMS they send - rather than given a near-unlimited allowance to play with - have even less incentive to use them.

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