OMG! The rise and rise of SMS. The text message has blossomed over the past couple of years and turned into the most popular form of communication. We take a look at how it started and snowballed into a world wide phenomenon.
The idea of a 160 character short message was born in Germany by Friedhelm Hillebrand, who was sat at his typewriter writing a collection of random sentences and questions. He discovered that counting every letter, number and space within most sentences, the number would amount to be lower than 160, and so the perfect-length ‘SM’ was born, short message.
In 1992 a man called Neil Papworth became the first man to send a text message by sending ‘Merry Christmas’ to his friend Richard Jarvis who worked at Vodafone. The message however was not sent from a phone as phones did not have keypads, so he sent it from his computer. But in 1993 a company from Finland called Nokia added the other S to SMS by making the first phone that could text. Some of the older generation might remember that you couldn’t text people on other networks and you wrote your messages by pressing the numerical keypad on your phone to get the desired letter.
The world was divided in 1995 by the introduction of the T9 system, were you a predictive texter? The system predicted the word you were writing by the letters you had already typed in, this was relief for some and a world of pain for others. In 1997 there was the birth of the Nokia 9000i communicator, which was the world’s first phone with an actual keypad! If you were not familiar with this handset it did push the boundaries of the word ‘mobile’ as it was quite large, if you were familiar with this handset then we hope that your arm and back have recovered from labouring it around with you all those years ago.
However it was in 1999 that one of the biggest events happened in the text message timeline. The boundaries were lifted, the network wall was smashed down and you can now text anyone and not just people on the same network as you. This is where the real texting boom started, and in 2002 more than 250 million texts were sent worldwide. More and more people were using the short message service to communicate as it was quick and cheap. In 2003 on New Year’s day over 100 million texts were sent in just 1 day! This was a sign of things to come.
If you are lucky enough not to know about the Eurovision Song Contest then you are the envy of millions around Europe who have had to sit through and listen to some horrific crimes against music. However in 2005 the sparsely talented singing contest broke the records for televoting where they included SMS in the votes. Texting was now big business, it had surpassed the amount of calls people make per month in 2007, and in 2010 it was found that 200,000 texts were sent every second.
In 2011 what might seem as a low within humanity but a show of how big the text message has become. The English Oxford Dictionary added the word LOL to its pages, which means to laugh out loud in text language. Which is a real show of how far this short message service has come.
There are now 6 billion active mobile phones in the world (ITU), with the average person looking at their phones 150 times a day (Nokia). So as you can imagine advertising to this medium can be very powerful and effective. It is proven by Celit that SMS produces engagement rates 6 to 8 times higher than email. With Frost & Sullivan reporting that 98% of all texts get read. Mobile marketing is now here with a bang, but we still cant help but thinking it has only just begun and its only going to get bigger.