Texting or SMS (short message service) messaging, used to be an activity that only the tech-savvy participated in. Today, its rise in use has made millions of Americans masters of a relatively new communication tool. Text messaging offers many benefits. It allows our communication to be more direct and succinct and saves time. Texts can be used to socialize with a friend, let someone know you are running late, conduct business, remind of appointments, get weather and news alerts, and marketing.
The Historical Path of Text Messaging
Much like most of our other modern-day communication tools, the groundwork for SMS messaging was laid decades ago. Over time, the technology, and therefore, the use of this new way to communicate has grown exponentially.
In 1984, Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert developed the first SMS concept. However, it wasn’t until 1992, That the first text message was sent. Since cell phones were lacking keyboards in this time frame, a former developer at Sema Group Telecoms, Neil Papworth used a PC to type a text to Richard Jarvis at Vodafone. The message simply wished him “Merry Christmas.”
Nokia beat out other cell phone manufacturers in 1993 by being the first to have a GSM line of phones supporting SMS text messaging. Additionally, the Nokia 9000i Communicator became the first cell phone with a full keyboard for typing text.
“I had no idea that first text was going to snowball eventually into this thing we call texting today. It didn’t feel momentous at all. There was no mass excitement or anything like that.” Neil Papworth- developer who sent the world’s first ever text message.
By 1999, texting was becoming a more useful communication tool as different networks now provided messaging across them. However, texting was still sometimes a cumbersome task, especially if you need to send a quick or urgent message. This was because instead of having letter keys on cell phones, each number (with the exception of number one) had three letters associated with it. In order to type a word, you would have to tap the appropriate letter key a certain number of times. This was referred to as “multi-tapping.”
In the 1990s Cliff Kushler, the co-founder of Tegic helped make texting easier with the invention of T9 typing, also known as “Text on 9 Keys.” This innovative technology used predictive text words to appear on the screen with only one press of a key.
Just like other technology services, SMS messaging morphed and became even more useful. In 2005, cell phone features such as voicemail management, routers, language tables, data download, and Enhanced Messaging with additional features were available for public use.
New Uses for Text Messaging
With the expansion of texting services, a variety of new uses for SMS messaging were found, including:
- Receiving News
- Pop Culture Voting
- Donating Money
- Presidential and Political Communications
Marketing with SMS Services
In 2010, the world finally realized that “texting” was here to stay for a while when this action verb was added to the dictionary. Not only has texting helped people to stay in constant contact with their friends, relatives, and business partners, it has also helped with marketing. For instance:
- 57 percent of customers report being interested in a brand’s text loyalty program
- 90 percent of mobile users who were part of an SMS loyalty program felt that it was of value to them
- Marketing coupons sent via text message are 10 times as likely to be used than coupons distributed via mail or newspaper. Did you know that ?
- Customers opt out of text marketing campaigns less than 5 percent of the time
Text Messaging by the Numbers
Although the growth of text messaging was initially slow. In 1995, the average American text user sent 0.4 texts per month. As phone and network technology progressed and texts could be sent across different networks, more people began to use SMS as a go-to communication method. By the year 2000, the average American was sending 35 text messages per month.
By June of 2007, this number had grown to 45 billion which also happened to be the year that the number of received and sent text messages exceeded the number of phone calls each month. In June of 2017, Americans were sending 781 billion text messages per month. SMS has now become the most widely-used application throughout the globe with 81 percent of cell phone subscribers using this service.