THE NUMBER of traditional SMS texts being sent has been overtaken by instant messages on chat apps such as WhatsApp, research firm Informa has said.
Informa's figures show that over one billion more app or "over the top" (OTT) messages were sent per day on chat apps in 2012, reaching 19.1 billion, compared the 17.6 billion SMS texts sent.
It seems that this number is only going to escalate, as the research firm estimated that by the end of this year 41 billion instant messages will be sent every day, compared with an average of 19.5 billion SMS texts.
"There were about 3.5 billion P2P SMS users in 2012, compared with about 586.3 million users of OTT messaging," the firm said in a statement.
"Each OTT user sent an average of 32.6 OTT messages a day, compared with just five SMS messages per day per P2P SMS user, meaning that OTT-messaging users are sending more than six times as many messages as P2P SMS users do."
The surge could be attributable to the habits smartphone users have developed with instant messaging apps. As online messages are much quicker to send and receive between devices than traditional SMS texts, people tend to send more, shorter messages during a conversation, such as one sentence in length, as opposed to filling up the space of one 160-character text message.
With new developments and updates in mobile chat messaging arriving all the time, especially in social media apps such as Facebook Chat - as well as iMessage, which automatically overrides traditional SMS messaging between iPhones as long as there is an internet connection - the gap between SMS and instant messaging is likely to widen in the coming years.
Research firm Ovum reported last month that SMS growth rates fell from 14 percent in 2011 to 8 percent in 2013, with SMS revenues falling "since the emergence of social messaging".
However, according to Informa, there is a lot of life still in SMS and it will remain a popular facet of the telecomms industry, especially in emerging and lesser developed economies where non-smartphones that rely on SMS as the preferred messaging tool are more prevalent.
Informa has projected that SMS revenue will grow to $127bn by 2016, up from $115bn last year.
Informa said that this is because the adoption and use of OTT-messaging apps is far from universal, so OTT-messaging users typically use SMS when communicating with non-OTT users, as well as that SMS is starting to increase in popularity in the enterprise mobile messaging market. µ