All Hail The SMS

[qi:83] Short message service (SMS), aka text messaging, contrary to rumors of its pending demise and thanks to its relative simplicity and ease of use, keeps on growing in popularity. In fact, SMS usage keeps growing even despite the high tariffs imposed by carriers around the world. Paul Ruppert, a veteran of mobile business and now a consultant, notes that every year, 2.1 billion global mobile users send 3 trillion SMS messages.

Even in markets like the U.S., which lagged in embracing the ease and power of texting and seemingly preferred email and Instant Messaging, text messaging has become an intimate aspect of daily lives, especially for those 15 to 25.

And as SMS-over-IP technologies get further traction, SMS usage will not only continue to grow, but could very well end up being the glue that brings together our disparate means of communication. (Related Post: 7 ways to text message for productivity.)
We are beginning to see commonly used communications applications embedding direct-to-SMS functionality. Take, for example, the new Yahoo Mail unveiled earlier today, which comes with free text messaging to mobile phone numbers (available in the U.S., Canada, India and the Philippines). It’s just the latest in a long line of free SMS services; you can send SMS from Skype or even from your AIM client. Meanwhile, Twitter, Jaiku, and scores of other applications are using SMS as a means to bridge the Web and mobile.

Fellow VoIP blogger Andy Abramson points out that SMS (thanks to its relative simplicity) can basically help bring together disparate services and overcome the messaging mess we deal with on a daily basis. Why?

Unlike the instant messaging networks where interoperability still remains a dream, mobile carriers — thanks to the money-making potential of SMS — are happy to interoperate with each other. And the higher usage will drive down costs, making it even more profitable for carriers. At least for SMS, greed turned out to be good.

The popularity of SMS parallels that of email: It is simple, easy and doesn’t need any expensive gear to send or receive. Like email, it is socialist in its usage — a cheap $50 phone can send and receive SMS messages from a luxury model, Nokia N95 and even more snobbish iPhone.

But unlike email, SMS remains an inherently private and intimate medium of communications, limited of course by 160 characters and a 10-cent-per-message charge (in the U.S., at least.) That, in and of itself, makes it more valuable.

Some (mostly entrepreneurs and venture capitalists) believe that like email, SMS is the vehicle for add-on-innovation. There are gaming companies that have turned SMS-based voting into a big business. Voice SMS is being talked about as the next big thing.

And while we wait for that to happen, let’s just all hail the SMS, the technology that lets me stay in touch with Mom — asynchronously, of course.