Recent statistics from mobile operators are showing a further decline in SMS usage over the last year or so. It seems to growth of Smartphone messaging apps that's eating into SMS's usual territory. Personally I credit this to two main reasons.
The advance of online messaging applications
Now this might sound obvious but messaging apps have come a long way. Not just in terms of availability, but usability and adoption. There are far more people now using messaging apps, that have a greater number of features than ever before. With this advancement we've seen aggregation of several services. Take Trillain as an example (Google Play Trillian App) Out of the box it supports 'Facebook Chat, MSN, Google Talk, AIM, ICQ, Yahoo!, and Jabber'. This allows you to forget about potential compatibility issue, as compatibility is no longer an issue. The Apps are no longer restricted to a messaging network, they are cross platform compatible.
Also with the working model of App downloads people are more comfortable now downloading applications. As the percentage of mobile app downloads increases it follows that a certain percentage of that increase will be messaging applications.
The push for data services
One thing that Telecoms companies have really pushed since the mid 2000's is the usage of the data network. Voice and SMS networks and usage have been relatively stable for a while now. The costs to operate them have come down and the tariffs customers buy have also come down. This may sound unbelievable based on the current operator contract process but recent statistics show that contracts are 27% less profitable than they were in 2005, partly due to pricing and partly due to the allowances included in them.
The only commodity left for a telecoms company to sell is data. Data is a measurable, metered commodity that can be priced for usage. It's the perfect target to try and get customers hooked on. You pay for a limited amount, use it all, and demand more, so you pay more. This encouragement leads to more uses of data. Customers want to use the data they have, so they find uses for it. Messaging being something they are already familiar with its an easy transition to switch from SMS to a messaging app, after all SMS is pretty much a pre-installed app these days anyway.
The future of SMS?
So are we only a few years away from an SMS-less mobile network? I don't think so, the problem with this is that the capital cost has been forked out for a mobile network that can support current SMS volumes, and continues to be spent on supporting it. Vodafone advertises a daily expenditure of between 1.5 and 2 million a day to support the existing network infrastructure. This is for voice, data and SMS but those things are intrinsically linked. They cannot extract the SMS functionality from the core network and stop supporting it, it just doesn't work like that. That leaves them with an expensive on-going support cost for a declining SMS market that is unlikely to ever go away. All you'll end out with there is a small resilient core of customers using the SMS network at an incredible costs (to the Telco) per SMS. SMS will never truly vanish.
You can read the Guardians view on this here.
A somewhat bizarre Samsung advert was recently released telling the story of two chaps competing for the attention of a young lady. The one with the Samsung Gear appears to have an advantage over the other in a series of incredibly contrived scenarios.
Its quite un-pc for a modern TV advert from the Telecoms giant. Its also a little bit creepy, what with the covert stalking and picture taking etc.
I've got a Samsung Note 3 and in no way does this entice me to go out and spend £250.00 on a postage stamp sized watch, even if it does make me a wonder with the ladies. Lets be honest, you'd look like a massive nerd, there's no way Samsung is fooling anyone with this advert.
Welcome to the all-you-can-eat-App-buffet!
Let's start off by looking at previous mobile app usage patterns. Early adopters and new mobile platform customers (Tablet and handset) are initially 'wowed' by whichever App store they visit. The wealth and availability of applications in an App store is impressive, and they are all available within a few clicks. People have little to no experience with any of these new applications now available to them, so they skip around a lot, downloading applications without a great deal of thought. We snack on different applications until we are gorged with a wide selection of them. There are no repercussions to installing a lot of these things, after all the only currencies are disk space (plentiful on modern devices) and a few pounds if you are purchasing applications. We haven't really got a plan, or a usage pattern here, it's an exciting new world of easily downloaded applications.
This slightly chaotic, unfocussed view on downloading applications gives people an opportunity to find the programs that work for them. It would be really interesting to see the discard rates for installed applications. Users try them, find that it wasn't what they thought and get rid of them. Often to then try something else very similar to see if the issues they had with the first App are fixed in a competitor or if that extra bit of missing functionality they thought was there is present.
Building Application loyalty and discovering a usage pattern
There is no App loyalty at this point. People are still adding and removing Apps until they settle on a relatively stable core set of applications. Consider the last time you upgraded a device. Chances are you simply reinstalled half of the same applications that were on the old device onto the new device. Apple and Google have actually built this data migration functionality into their ecosystems now. Its become the expected behaviour. Users develop a pattern of usage, and then they tend to stick with it. Barring significant life changes that introduce new categories of interests such as Marriages, children, house moves etc. people stay within their comfort zone. It takes a lot of marketing, or a trusted social recommendation to instigate someone to try out a new application.
A statistic that has an important bearing on this is the early adopter (or repeat upgrader) figure. New Smartphone sales are slowing. This is due to all of the early adopters having already adopted them, and in all likelihood are now on their third or fourth device due to the length of contracts. So the user base is more familiar with the way smartphone work, and integrate with everyday life. There are less and less completely new users to the ecosystem. The pattern described above is attributed to these new users, so the 'snacking' phenomenon is decreasing. This is evident in modern examples of Apple and Samsung's advertising campaigns which are both aimed at the casual user, the fringes of their traditional market segments, such as the 40+/50+ or budget conscious.
Application market Stagnation? Or User Stability?
I think when you take these factors into account the figures make a lot more sense and can be explained more as a repercussion of user stability and established practices. Experienced users have experience using online App stores and don't download a dozen applications in the first ten minutes just to test them out and remove them. Downloads are more considered and planned, time is taken to find the right application as the novelty value of having ALL THOSE APP's(!!) right on your fingertips has gone. This really helps to separate the chaff, and poor applications find themselves falling by the wayside quickly.
Rather than having a statistic around downloaded applications it may be more useful to view how many times an application was opened on a mobile device. Typically applications that are kept by a user are more heavily used. Users end out in a model of fewer applications, but more heavily used.
If you want to view more or this, or see a statistical view then have a look at either of the following two articles:
Kieron Gillen and artist Adam Kubert follow up 2002's 'Origin' with 'Origin 2', a continuation of the history of Wolverine. Issue one has an acetate cover over the front, with the claws on it, and Wolvies wolf family on the normal cover. The effect is outstanding and really gets across the animal theme of the issue across.
There is very little conversation (after all Wolverine is surrounded by Wolves) and a fair bit of internal monologue, written as 'instinct' rather than conscious thought. This helps to bring the reader up to speed quickly and builds a real atmosphere around Wolverine being out in the wilderness. On that note the Wilderness is brought to life with incredible detail by Kubert. The scenery design and the animal art is fantastic in this issue, there is a real sense of the open wilderness here, its remote, and you can feel it.
The production on this issue is fantastic, from both a writing perspective and an artistic impression. It's a shining example of modern comic creation. Even if you are not a fan of Comics I'd recommend buying this issue, it crosses the boundaries into 'Art' for me. I simply cannot recommend it enough.
Go buy it now, if its anything like the original series it won't be available for long.