30 years after first SMS, text messages still popular; 1 in 3 use it every day

British data reveals the enduring popularity of short text messages; 20 per cent people still use SMS as their default messaging platform

SMS-short text messages
The first text message was sent by British engineer Neil Papworth on December 3, 1992.

Thirty years after the first text SMS was sent, a large number of people still use text messages, data in Britain has revealed. Short Message/Messaging Service (SMS) still play a big role in the daily digital interactions of people, with almost one in three sending and receiving SMS messages every day.

20 per cent of people still use SMS as their default messaging platform even though a wide range of other communications platforms, including services such as WhatsApp and instant messaging apps such as Skype, and a range of social media platforms, like Facebook Messenger, are available.

30 per cent send text messages daily

30 per cent of those surveyed said they sent text messages daily, with 54 per cent saying they used SMS as a way of reaching people who were not on other messaging platforms, the data from UK communications firm Infobip showed.

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The first text message was sent by British engineer Neil Papworth on December 3, 1992, and read simply, “Merry Christmas”. Infobip UK country manager Nikhil Shoorji told a British publication: “In the 30 years since SMS text messaging has been in use, messaging technology has expanded exponentially.”

“While some might argue that SMS has lost ground in the messaging platform popularity race, the results of our research show quite the opposite. Not only does SMS still hold an important place in users’ everyday lives, it is also popular among the younger generation Z,” Shoorji said.

“This means that the power of SMS endures and will continue to be one of the core platforms for communications moving forward, something brands need to keep in mind or miss out on engaging with a sizeable share of their customer base,” he added.
According to Infobip’s research, seven per cent of those asked said they have been dumped via text message, and one per cent said they had been sacked via text message.

The first text message

In 1992, Papworth, a 22-year-old test engineer for Sema Group in the UK (an Anglo-French IT company now known as Airwide Solutions), used a personal computer to send the text message “Merry Christmas” via the Vodafone network to the phone of Richard Jarvis, who was at a party in Newbury, Berkshire. It had been organised to celebrate the event.

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Finnish Radiolinja became the first network to offer a commercial person-to-person SMS text messaging service in 1994. When Radiolinja’s domestic competitor, Telecom Finland (now part of TeliaSonera) also launched SMS text messaging in 1995 and the two networks offered cross-network SMS functionality, Finland became the first nation where SMS text messaging was offered on a competitive as well as on a commercial basis.

Initial growth of text messaging worldwide was slow. In 1995, customers sent on average only 0.4 messages per GSM customer per month. The key reason behind the slow take-up of SMS was that operators were slow to set up charging systems, especially for prepaid subscribers, and to eliminate billing fraud, which was possible by changing Short Message Service Center (SMSC) settings on individual handsets to use the SMSCs of other operators.

Over time, however, this issue was eliminated by switch billing instead of billing at the SMSC and by new features within SMSCs to allow blocking of foreign mobile users sending messages through it.

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