Mobile instant messaging services like WhatsApp and iMessage have overtaken traditional SMS texting for the first time.
According to a report by Informa, messages sent using instant messaging apps now outnumber SMS texts, which could have a huge impact on mobile operators’ revenue.
Estimates from research firm Ovum suggest that $23 billion (£15 billion) of revenue was lost in 2012 due to the increasing popularity of messaging apps and the decline of SMS. Pamela Clark-Dickson of Informa also said network operators are already “seeing a decline in their messaging revenues.”
By the end of this year that revenue loss could rise to $34 billion (£22 billion), with app messages used twice as much as SMS texts. In fact, nearly 50 billion messages per day will be sent using cross-platform messaging services by 2014, in comparison to 21 billion SMS messages.
This could be a massive problem for mobile operators, who view SMS messages as a quick and efficient way to earn money. Estimated to earn over $120 billion from traditional messages by the end of this year, the rise of chat apps could be their downfall.
However, SMS isn’t dying out quite yet, because chat apps are only thriving on smartphones. Anyone in a developing or emerging country will use older handsets or features phones that rely on SMS for communication purposes.
“They don’t have mobile data plans, so there is an awfully big base of mobile phone users who are going to still find that SMS is the best messaging experience for a while,” explained Clark-Dickson.
“There is a lot of life still in SMS. There are a few things that, I think, will keep the SMS alive for a few years yet.”
SMS revenue is expected to grow to $127 billion (£81 billion) by 2016 says Informa. Last year the figures showed $115 billion revenue was accumulated.