Text messaging, or texting, is the act of typing and sending a brief, electronic message between two or more mobile phones or fixed or portable devices over a phone network. The term originally referred to messages sent using the Short Message Service (SMS); it has grown to include messages containing image, video, and sound content (known as MMS messages).
The sender of a text message is known as a texter, while the service itself has different colloquialisms depending on the region. It may simply be referred to as a text in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia and the Philippines, an SMS in most of mainland Europe, and a TMS or SMS in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Text messages can be used to interact with automated systems to, for example, order products or services, or participate in contests.
Advertisers and service providers use direct text marketing to message mobile phone users about promotions, payment due dates, etcetera instead of using mail, e-mail or voicemail. In a straight and concise definition for the purposes of this English Language article, text messaging by phones or mobile phones should include all 26 letters of the alphabet and 10 numerals, i.e., alpha-numeric messages, or text, to be sent by texter or received by the textee.
1933 – RCA Communications, New York introduced the first “telex” service.The first messages over RCA transatlantic circuits were sent between New York and London. Seven million words or 300,000 radiograms transmitted the first year. Alphanumeric messages have long been sent by radio using via Radiotelegraphy.
Digital information began being sent using radio as early as 1971 by the University of Hawaii using ALOHAnet.Matti Makkonen has been referred to in different contexts as the “father of text messaging” but he rejects this epithet. “The SMS function is the result of extensive and open international cooperation, and GSM documents prove that it is based on the Franco-German proposal,” he says. This proposal was developed by Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert. The first technical solution was developed in a GSM subgroup under the leadership of Finn Trosby. It was further developed under the leadership of Kevin Holley and Ian Harris (see Wikipedia: Short Message Service).
SMS messaging was used for the first time on 3 December 1992, when Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old test engineer for Sema Group in the UK (now Airwide Solutions), used a personal computer to send the text message “Merry Christmas” via the Vodafone network to the phone of Richard Jarvis. Modern SMS text messaging is understood to be messaging from one mobile phone to another mobile phone.
Radiolinja became the first network to offer 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 as a competitive as well as commercial basis.
The first text messaging service in the United States was provided by Omnipoint Communications, the first GSM carrier in America. George Schmitt, a former Airtouch executive who launched commercial GSM in Germany, recruited Roger Wood from competitor iDEN / Nextel lead a team that introduced texting as a commercial service in New York City in November 1996.
In preparation for the company’s launch party in New York’s Central Park, Wood and co-worker Mark Caron sent the first SMS Text message of “George are you there?” to Schmitt during a Sunday morning RF drive test on October 20, 1996. Omnipoint soon offered the first texting between the U.S. and the rest of the world.
The tipping point for text messaging was the 1998 marketing plan conceived by Wood which encouraged consumers to use texting as the primary way to communicate with their home countries while traveling overseas instead of calling home. This positioning set the stage for text messaging as the primary means of contact between two or more people not in their home countries. Initial growth of text messaging was slow, with customers in 1995 sending on average only 0.4 message per GSM customer per month.
One factor in the slow take-up of SMS was that operators were slow to set up charging systems, especially for prepaid subscribers, and eliminate billing fraud, which was possible by changing SMSC settings on individual handsets to use the SMSCs of other operators. Over time, 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.
SMS is available on a wide range of networks, including 3G networks. However, not all text messaging systems use SMS, and some notable alternate implementations of the concept include J-Phone’s SkyMail and NTT Docomo’s Short Mail, both in Japan. E-mail messaging from phones, as popularized by NTT Docomo’s i-mode and the RIM BlackBerry, also typically use standard mail protocols such as SMTP over TCP/IP.
Today, text messaging is the most widely used mobile data service, with 74% of all mobile phone users worldwide, or 2.4 billion out of 3.3 billion phone subscribers, at end of 2007 being active users of the Short Message Service. In countries such as Finland, Sweden and Norway, over 85% of the population use SMS. The European average is about 80%, and North America is rapidly catching up with over 60% active users of SMS by end of 2008. The largest average usage of the service by mobile phone subscribers is in the Philippines, with an average of 27 texts sent per day by subscriber.
Standard SMS messaging uses 140 bytes (octets) per message, which translates to 160 characters (7 bits bytes) of the English alphabet using 7-bit encoding or as few as 70 characters for languages using non-Latin alphabets using UTF-16 encoding. (The commonly cited limit of 140 characters is imposed by some services like Twitter that reserve 20 characters for non-message content, like addressing.)
Text messaging is most often used between private mobile phone users, as a substitute for voice calls in situations where voice communication is impossible or undesirable. Some text messages such as SMS can also be used for the remote controlling of appliances. It is widely used in domotics systems. Some amateurs have also built own systems to control (some of) their appliances via SMS.
Other methods such as group messaging, which was patented in 2012 by the GM of Andrew Ferry, Devin Peterson, Justin Cowart, Ian Ainsworth, Patrick Messinger, Jacob Delk, Jack Grande, Austin Hughes, Brendan Blake, and Brooks Brasher are used to involve more than two people into a text messaging conversation.
A Flash SMS is a type of text message that appears directly on the main screen without user interaction and is not automatically stored in the inbox. It can be useful in cases such as an emergency (e.g. fire alarm) or confidentiality (e.g. one-time password). Short message services are developing very rapidly throughout the world. SMS is particularly popular in Europe, Asia (excluding Japan; see below), United States, Australia and New Zealand and is also gaining influence in Africa.
Popularity has grown to a sufficient extent that the term texting (used as a verb meaning the act of mobile phone users sending short messages back and forth) has entered the common lexicon. Young Asians consider SMS as the most popular mobile phone application. Fifty percent of American teens send fifty text messages or more per day, making it their most frequent form of communication. In China, SMS is very popular and has brought service providers significant profit (18 billion short messages were sent in 2001). It is a very influential and powerful tool in the Philippines, where the average user sends 10–12 text messages a day.
The Philippines alone sends on average over 1 billion text messages a day, more than the annual average SMS volume of the countries in Europe, and even China and India. SMS is hugely popular in India, where youngsters often exchange lots of text messages, and companies provide alerts, infotainment, news, cricket scores updates, railway/airline booking, mobile billing, and banking services on SMS. Texting became popular in the Philippines in 1998.
In 2001, text messaging played an important role in deposing former Philippine president Joseph Estrada. Similarly, in 2008, text messaging played a primary role in the implication of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in an SMS sex scandal. Short messages are particularly popular among young urbanites.