With the rise of the smartphone, it would appear that SMS text messaging is obsolete and a thing of the past. However, is SMS really dead? There is no question that its use has declined especially with the growing popularity of Instant Messaging mobile applications. However, it may be a bit premature to assume that SMS is no longer relevant.

Many insiders in the mobile industry, in fact, have conflicting opinions about the true status of SMS and where it currently stands against the major players like Facbook IM and apps like WhatsApp. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts on why SMS might be perceived as struggling.

Reasons for the Decline of SMS

  • A few mobile plans do place a restriction on the number of texts you are allotted before being charged for each additional text message sent thereafter. This may drive users to look for other alternatives.
  • Features like broadcast text messaging have largely been replaced with more efficient ways of communication, such as status updates through Facebook. With the number of smartphone users on the rise, more consumers than ever have access to major social networks at their fingertips and can freely use them at no charge as part of their inclusive data plan.
  • Instant messaging is rapidly gaining traction among mobile users. The fact that you can send unlimited messages and freely chat with family and friends without worry of going over your allotted limit and being charged for it also makes it a more desirable option. Additionally, IM uses far less data unless, of course, you implement the use of videos, audio or photo sharing.

In a nutshell, Popularity of SMS marketing has declined — not because it isn’t effective, but because the popularity of texting in general has decreased as other methods of communication are explored.

If you’re like many people, you might assume then that it is only a matter of time before SMS completely falls by the wayside. However, this may not exactly be the case. Some even contend that SMS is still king when it comes to messaging.

Why SMS is Still Relevant

  • SMS is platform independent; think about that for a minute. Of the hundreds of millions of mobile phones out there, even the most outdated models still in use are capable of sending and receiving text. This means you can practically reach anyone via text as long as they own a mobile phone. No other messaging technology as of yet can make this claim.
  • Newer forms of messaging often entail having to install the latest app. To complicate matters, certain apps may not be available on certain devices. iMessages, for example, is restricted only to Apple devices. Similarly, BlackBerry Messenger is restricted to Blackberry users. Of course, there are apps like WhatsApp that works across multiple platforms though the person you wish to message will need to have the same app installed as well.
  • Just about everyone will open a text message they receive. According to statistics, 98 percent of text messages are opened and read within 15 minutes of being received. This is a fact that savvy marketers are keen of and exploit to their advantage since they can get the message to you regardless of what apps you have or don’t have installed.

There is Still Life in SMS

To put it in context, nearly 8 trillion text messages were sent in 2011, which comprised of roughly two-thirds of all mobile messaging traffic. SMS is also up in developing countries where it has become more popular than voice calling.

While some developers are waiting for the death of SMS, they will probably be waiting for a long time because most figures and statistics show that text messaging is actually increasing in certain areas. Another statistic also revealed that on a global scale, only about 16 percent of mobile phones in use are app-enabled. While the media tends to jump on the IM and smartphone bandwagon, the statistics seem to tell a different story.

SMS is Down but Not Out

With the many advantages it continues to hold, SMS is not going anywhere. Of course, IM app developers will attempt to use every sales tactic in the playbook to convince you that IM is the new future and that by sticking to SMS you will be left in the dust. But if SMS is right for your company, then you can certainly use it effectively, maybe more than ever.


Ashley Williamson is a freelance writer and an occasional guest blogger interested in business, marketing, and SEO related topics. She is currently writing on behalf of Silverstreet, a company that specializes in mobile messaging. When she is not working, she likes to travel and read as much as she can. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.