Number Of Sent Text Messages Falls For First Time Since 1992

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The text message just turned 21 years old, and new reports show the technology’s popularity is finally declining. Money-savvy cellphone users are turning instead to free instant messaging services.

The first text message was sent on Dec. 3, 1992 by a software engineer testing out the new feature. Neil Papworth simply wrote “Merry Christmas.”

That first text marked the beginning of a new era in communication and technology. Despite that texting is now ancient in technology terms, it’s steadily gained momentum year after year. CNN reported in late 2012 that 6 billion texts are sent each day in the United States, and that 8.6 trillion are sent each year throughout the world.

Now it seems that’s the peak, as people find free alternatives to often costly text messaging. Cell phone providers typically charge up to 20 cents per text, or a set monthly price for unlimited texting. This is a huge markup from the 0.03 cents it costs the provider to transmit a text. That’s right, each text message costs providers just $0.0003 to send.

Instant Messaging Services Taking Over

People looking to circumvent the markup are turning to free messaging services available on their smartphones, such as Apple’s iMessage, Facebook messages, and WhatsApp.

For the first time ever last year, instant messages sent from phones were more common than SMS (standard messaging service) text messages in the U.K. A new report states that 160 billion instant messages were sent last year, a bit more than the 145 billion text messages sent.

The trend is occurring worldwide. Experts predict that mobile users will send 18 trillion instant messages from their phones and just 21 billion texts in 2014.

Despite this, fans of the humble text message can expect it to stick around for a while longer. Many people still haven’t made the switch to smartphones, meaning text messaging services aren’t available for them and they’ll have to stick to texting.