20 years on, SMS remains king in the ‘texting capital of the world’

Reuters file photo

MANILA, Philippines — It’s been two full decades since the first text message in the world was sent out to a Vodafone executive, but what most Filipinos have come to know and own as its national means of communication, so to speak, remains relevant in a world slowly dominated by newer technology.

According to a report by The Guardian in UK, the first short message service (SMS) was sent out by Neil Papworth, a software programmer and part of the team that developed the Short Messaging Service Center at Vodafone in Newbury, Berkshire, in England.

The first ever text message? “Merry Christmas,” sent out by Papworth on December 3 back in 1992.

Twenty years on, SMS remains to be the preferred medium of Pinoys in sending out greetings especially during the holiday season, even as other methods such as posting status via social media or seeing relatives face to face via Voice over Internet Protocol services emerge as possible alternatives.

According to a 2009 report, Pinoys send an average of 600 text messages per month, or about 40 percent more than their US counterparts. Smartphone adoption has been on the rise in the country, but studies have noted that SMS remains to be the top activity performed using these high-powered phones.

It’s no wonder therefore that we earned — and still own — the distinction as the “texting capital of the world.”

The country’s major telecommunications companies have reported a resurgence in the volume of text messages sent over their networks last year, with the PLDT Group (which includes the Smart, Talk ‘N Text, and Sun Cellular brands) reporting a massive 256.31 billion SMS sent in June 2011 alone, while rival Globe Telecom recorded as much as 19.2 billion text messages sent in a month last year.

During the Christmas holidays last year, both Smart and Globe have also reported a spike in SMS activity, with Globe recording an average of 13 percent increase in text volumes during the holidays, which is when SMS volume traditionally peaks.

The telcos attributed the spike in volumes to unlimited and bucket offerings — where service providers offer bundled text and call products that pack more SMS numbers than their usual cost — which now provide majority of their SMS-based revenues.

Still, the specter of other technologies such as social media looms in the distance to easily take over SMS, as these new methods provide a richer and more interactive form of communication than the limited 160 characters provided by text messages.

In this front, the Philippines once again earns its badge as the “social networking capital of the world,” with almost 100 percent penetration among Internet users in social networking sites such as Facebook.

Nevertheless, the more than 70 million Filipinos who own a mobile phone still prefer to be “kitikitext,” suggesting that SMS may have some more years — or even decades — to it than what was previously thought.

InterAksyon.com