The Rise and Fall of SMS Texting

You may find this hard to believe, but SMS texting is on the decline. SMS texts are sent through your cell phone provider; not to be confused with instant messaging apps like iMessage. Why do I make this distinction? The annual technology predictions report by Deloitte predicts that, “in 2014 Instant Messaging (IM) services on mobile phones will carry more than twice the volume (50 billion versus 21 billion per day) of messages sent via SMS globally.” This decline in SMS messaging is somewhat surprising since texting is only about 20 years old. However, Emerson College marketing professor and BIGfish president David Gerzof Richard notes, “These are sort of the cycles that we’re seeing in technology development.” Given the fast pace of the tech industry, it’s actually surprising SMS texting is still relevant at all.

It is interesting to see how far texting has come since its inception. As this article notes, the idea of SMS texting was developed by Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert in 1984. However, it was not until 1992 that Neil Papworth sent the first text message. The message read “Merry Christmas,” and was sent by PC because most mobile phones at the time did not have keyboards. In 1993, Nokia became the first handset manufacturer to create an entire phone line that supported user-sending of SMS text messages and in 1997, Nokia also became the first manufacturer to produce a mobile phone with a full keyboard. It wasn’t until 1999 that text messages could be exchanged across different networks. This new feature made SMS incredibly popular and in 2007, Americans sent and received more text messages than phone calls.

As with most trends these days, the popularity of SMS texting was short-lived. According to CTIA, there has been a steady decline in texting since 2009. Although texting grew by 55.5% in 2009, this fell to 31.3% in 2010 and then 12.3% in 2011. The declining growth rate hit new lows when the number of sms texts sent and received decreased in 2012. In addition, the article states, “Of the 326 million estimated wireless subscriber connections in the US [in 2012], 22 million were wireless-enabled tablets, laptops and modems (up from 20 million in 2011) and 152 million were smartphones, up 36% from 112 million in 2011.” This is important to note because as users move away from SMS texting, they are increasingly flocking to the instant messaging apps that are available on these devices.

In a recent interview with NPR, David Gerzof Richard argued that this decline in SMS growth is likely to continue due to the increased use of messaging apps. Gerzof Richard suggests several reasons:

You pay for texts:

“With a texting plan from your cell phone provider, you usually pay to send text messages. With instant messaging services, including Facebook, Snapchat and WhatsApp, the app is free. You pay for a data plan — your access to the Internet — but you’re not billed for your messages.”

With the release of BlackBerry’s BBM feature in 2006, SMS texting took its first hit from an instant messaging service. Since then the surge in smartphones, continued charges for SMS text messages, and falling data prices have encouraged a wide range of competitors, such as applications with direct messaging capabilities, social media messaging, and photo sharing platforms.

You can do more with instant messages:

When looking at direct messaging services, Apple’s iMessage is one of the leading platforms. This app makes it easy for multiple people to participate in a single conversation, whereas with SMS texting, messages are sent separately to each person. With iMessage, users can also utilize emoticons as well as easily send photos and videos from one’s phone. In addition, there has been an increase in social media integration and messaging services. Facebook, Twitter, and more recently Instagram, have made it easier to interact with friends through chat and direct messages. Lastly, Snapchat made picture sharing even more popular by introducing time limits on how long a message can be seen.

You don’t have to worry about phone numbers:

“It looks like we’re starting to move in a direction where the younger generation isn’t thinking in terms of phone numbers, but in terms of usernames and handles,” Gerzof Richard says. Most messaging apps don’t need phone numbers at all. Instead, they easily link to your existing social media sites and harvest your contacts from your friend lists.

Where young people go, their elders will follow:

Deloitte’s annual technology predictions report also mentions that this year there will be an increase in the number of smartphones bought by people over 55. Gerzof Richard says this will drive even more people to instant messaging. In trying to keep track of and better connect with their kids, people over 55 have ventured into the realm of social media platforms. However, the use of social media platforms and smartphones transcends just parenting. With increased smartphone use, people over 55 are likely to be more comfortable with alternate modes of communication and therefore use SMS text messaging less.

With the consistent growth of smartphone usage, it will be interesting to follow the decline of SMS texting. In 2014, instant messaging services are predicted to account for 50 billion messages sent globally per day. That is double the number of SMS text messages that will be sent this year! Do you think SMS text messaging can make a comeback?

Dana Harvey

Are you reading this on your phone?

It seemed like everyone was (and still is) talking about our short attention spans and how people only want to read short, concise stories and tweets online. However, a recent article in The Atlantic uncovers some evidence that disproves this theory. If the “short attention span” rumors were true, then why did “Why I Bought a House in Detroit for $500,” a 6,000 word Buzzfeed article, garner more than a million pageviews? On that same note, Wired’s long-form article “How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses,” received more than one million views for an average of five minutes and The New York Times’ “Snowfall” got more than 2.9 million visitors and 3.5 million page views.

Not only are people reading lengthy articles online, they’re sharing them, too. “These stories can also benefit from people’s desire to share quality stories along with Imgur pics and cat videos,” The Atlantic writes. Feature articles offer in-depth research and insight into a story, meaning readers have more to relate to and learn from.

What’s even more interesting is how readers are consuming these lengthy articles. While it may be counterintuitive, studies have shown that U.S. mobile users are happy to watch long shows and movies and read long-form content on their phones. “Why I Bought a House in Detroit for $500” maintained the average tablet user’s attention for 12 minutes, while those reading the article on smart phones spent more than 25 minutes on the page – “a small eternity, in internet time,” writes The Atlantic. It looks like one of our 2014 social media prophecies is already coming true and the move to mobile is affecting more industries than we can count.

Buzzfeed’s founder and CEO, Jonah Peretti, believes people are reading more on their mobile devices not only out of convenience (mobile devices are almost always within arm’s reach), but also because of “that single, tab-less screen–the screen that scrolls with the flick of a finger.” The Atlantic believes Buzzfeed may have found the magic recipe for long-form story success online; a format “devoid of ads and right-rail detritus – a template that presents a single story in the form of a scroll.” With 50 percent of their traffic coming from mobile devices, has Buzzfeed perfected the mobile-ready feature story format just as they perfected the compelling headlines they’re so well known for? The simple, seamless scroll enables continuous reading without interruption, while a phone screen hides any open windows, tabs and banner ads that might otherwise cause distraction on a computer or tablet.

Do you read long articles or watch shows and movies on your mobile device? Have you always done so or is this a new habit? What was the last long-form story you read online?

Brigid Gorham

#CES2014 in Review

Since the modern VCR was introduced at the International Consumer Electronics Show in 1970, CES has become the place for companies to debut their most innovative technologies – and 2014 was no exception. With more than 3,200 exhibitors claiming to have the best, newest, biggest and brightest products, it can be difficult to single out and keep track of the best gadgets. To help you navigate the onslaught of CES coverage, we’ve collected a few of our favorite products and stories for a BIGfish recap of #CES2014.

Things We Loved

One of the first big stories that came out of CES was Toyota’s fuel cell vehicle. Our favorite product, this car has a range of 300 miles and emits only water vapor. Popular Mechanics reported that this hydrogen fuel cell car could even power a house for up to a week in case of an emergency. Toyota plans to release the car next year, but only in California since it’s the state with the most public hydrogen fueling

Another interesting auto-related announcement from CES was the formation of the Open Automotive Alliance. As members of this alliance, Audi, GM, Google, Honda, Hyundai and NVIDIA plan on working together to bring Android operating systems to their cars. This collaborative effort will enable “them to bring cutting-edge tech into the cabins of their cars far more quickly than they had been able to in the past.” We’re excited to see what these companies are able to accomplish together in the next year.

One notable technology that didn’t disappoint is the Oculus Rift ‘Crystal Cove’ prototype, winner of Engadget’s Best of CES award. Just put on the Oculus Rift headset and be transported into the virtual reality of Crystal Cove. Users can then “walk” around and interact with what they see. Watch this video of the Verge staff trying out the prototype for the first time to see what it’s like to experience this virtual reality.

A finalist for iLounge’s Best of Show awards, our client, TYLT, introduced several products at CES this year, including a whole new line of portable battery packs. Check out their segment on Geekbeat.TV’s #CESLive show to learn more about their incredibly useful portable chargers and innovative mobile accessories:

Buzz-Worthy Trends

You can’t talk about CES 2014 without mentioning Ultra HD 4K TV and curved TV screens. While both technologies were introduced at CES 2013, the trend really took off at this year’s show with nearly every TV company, including Panasonic, Samsung, LG, and Sony, incorporating these technologies into their products. While 4K is now more widely available and affordable, we don’t expect this technology to go mainstream anytime soon, especially since broadcast television hasn’t even made the jump from 780p to 1080p yet. However, Netflix announced it will stream its hit show “House of Cards” in 4K, so maybe more content providers will jump in on this trend in the next few months.


Two other notable trends from CES 2014 are wearable tech and connected home appliances. Wearable technology took went healthy as LG announced the Lifeband Touch and Sony debuted Core, both competitors to FitBit and the like. Pebble’s sleek new Steel smartwatch and Netatmo’s UV-monitoring bracelet also raised the bar for wearable tech to be just as fashionable as it is functional.

CES 2014 also offered a glimpse into the future of smart homes with connected products from LG, Whirlpool and Samsung. Enter data into LG’s refrigerator when you add or remove items and the refrigerator can then “text its owner when food is a day or so from spoiling,” “respond to queries such as ‘How much beer is left?’,” and display recipes based on the food you currently have.

Whirlpool also displayed a kitchen of the future, complete with a touchscreen stovetop that enables users to display recipes, social media feeds and audio controls. Whirlpool is also working on a fridge, dishwasher, oven, stove and washing machine that talk to one another and can do things like determine what kind of stain you have on your shirt and then wash it accordingly.


The Best of Local Tech

BIGfish president David Gerzof Richard presented the best Boston gadgets and apps from CES 2014 on FOX25 News last week. Watch the segment below to learn more about local companies like iRobot, CO Everywhere, FinSix and many more!

What was your favorite gadget from CES 2014? Who was your favorite reporter to follow during the show? Do you plan on purchasing anything that was unveiled at this year’s show?
Brigid Gorham

The Show Must Go On: BIGfish Grounded in Boston for CES 2014

For the first time in eight years, BIGfish doesn’t have a team member on the ground at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. As advanced and incredible as technology is today, mother nature still rules. After a Nor’easter hit New England hard late last week, a “polar vortex” swept the nation, leaving runways icy and flight crew members overworked and too tired to fly. More than 3,000 flights were cancelled industry-wide on Monday and our carrier, JetBlue, cancelled flights throughout the weekend, then completely shut down for 17 hours from Monday afternoon to Tuesday morning.

Known for its strong social media strategy, JetBlue did a good job of responding to stranded customers via Twitter during this crisis. After her flight was cancelled, BIGfish team member, Meredith, tweeted at JetBlue and received a reply 20 minutes later. Although the end result was obviously not ideal, JetBlue was honest, timely and informative with their responses.


JetBlue also offered a fee waiver for customers flying out of the northeast and brought in extra greeters to help passengers (finally) leaving from Logan Airport. However, an unrelated promoted tweet was pinned to the top of their feed during the first few days of cancellations. Since JetBlue is a verified account, their @replies are automatically hidden from their timeline (unless you click to view “All” tweets), meaning this promoted tweet made JetBlue seem even more out of touch. We think JetBlue should have taken this down as soon as things took a turn for the worse. Better late than never, JetBlue replaced the promoted tweet with a more appropriate post on Monday morning, linking to an “operational update” on their blog.

On the bright side, we’ve been in CES prep mode for months and everything is in place for our client, TYLT, who attended Pepcom’s Digital Experience last night and will be exhibiting on the CES show floor all week. Since November, the BIGfish team has been hard at work targeting and pitching key reporters and providing our clients with the resources and information they need to be successful with our without us at the show – and that we are proud of!

Now that CES has started, we’re keeping lines of communication open with our clients in Las Vegas and are preparing as much as possible for follow ups next week. We’re also following #CES2014, @IntlCES and our favorite reporters on Twitter, watching live streams, and reading every article about new products and events at the show.

So far, it seems like the CES predictions of curved screens, connected cars, cheaper 4K TVs and more 4K content have proved to be true. Some of our favorite stories and products so far are:

We can’t wait to see what else is uncovered at #CES2014 this year! Stay tuned for more of our favorite things from the largest consumer electronics show in the world.