The US has seen its second drop in the number of SMS messages sent, as internet-powered alternatives such as email and social media become more widely used as a primary communication tool, according to new research. The report, published by independent analyst Chetan Sharma, found that the average U.S. mobile subscriber sent 696 text messages per month in the second quarter of this year, falling to know that 678 per month in the third quarter.
Read the full report (in a Slideshare presentation) below:
SMS caught on relatively late in the U.S. after being widely adopted by consumers in many European and Asian countries. SMS use reached its peak earlier in other countries, with messaging revenue now starting to fall in most Western markets, the report said. American carriers have fought off the decline — until now.
The report also forecast that the growth of mobile data traffic will slow in 2012, falling to an 80 percent rate after doubling annually over the past five years.
Sharma said it was too early to tell whether the decline here would continue in the long term, but he noted that Internet-based messaging services, like Facebook messaging and Apple’s iMessage, had been chomping away at SMS usage.
He said the decline would become more pronounced as more people buy smartphones. A bit more than 50 percent of cellphone owners have smartphones in the US.
By contract, mobile data traffic is huge, reaching a gargantuan two exabytes, according to Sharma. For some carriers, the average monthly use by a smartphone user is almost 900MB.
As the average user’s total grows, it could mean bigger data plans, at higher prices, coming in the future, the report said.
Data now accounts for nearly 43 percent of mobile industry service revenues in the U.S., and by early next year it’s likely to generate a majority of the money coming in, Sharma said. Voice calls represent less than 10 percent of all network traffic, according to the report, but still generate revenue out of proportion to the amount of capacity they consume.
More than 75 percent of the devices carriers sold in the third quarter were smartphones, according to Sharma. Google’s Android platform represented the largest portion of those phones, but Apple dominated the market in terms of revenue and profit.
Apple sold 6 percent of the volume of handsets worldwide but got 70 percent of the total smartphone profit. Meanwhile, Apple led in unit shipments for tablets, and took in 95 percent of all tablet profits, Sharma reported.