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Can We Stick a Fork in SMS Yet?

Mostly gone are the days of your CFO who breaks balls like she breaks glass ceilings coming up to you while you’re helping one of the engineers out with an important problem saying, “Excuse me but I emailed you for help unjamming the printer closest to me, five feet to the left of another working one, and it’s been fourteen minutes without any response! I’m just as much a CFO in this skirt as I’d be I pants so take me seriously.” “Due respect Ma’am but I didn’t get any email from you.” WinMo phone polls IMAP, notification suddenly goes off, text to speech announcement identifying the email as having come from Megabitch. “Well there it is but the delay means that the mainframe crashed, gotta run.”

Doesn’t happen because, like our computer, our email client isn’t polling every 15 minutes anymore. Rather it’s constantly connected to some server and getting “push” email through one protocol or another. And it would be very difficult, I’m speculating, for me to find a smartphone at any dealership that, when configuring it to use any email address, whether it’s a Blackberry connecting to your home Linux server, an iPhone connecting to your Gmail, a Windows Phone 7 connecting to your office Exchange server, doesn’t by default dig for and engage constantly-connected configuration. Then you have Android phones where you just pop in your Gmail account once and you have access to all of their services.

Given that text messaging tends to cost money, it has a 160 alphanumeric limit, it is vulnerable to delays on a congested network just as email would be, given the rise of instant messaging popularity with GTalk, BBM or Tango and Facetime), given the enormous popularity of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks for which there is ample support on these phones, given that it’s no more difficult, for me at least, to compose an email than it would be an SMS, the only thing I can think of that would be holding people back, if people in this group are in fact being held back, from weaning themselves away from SMS in favor of anything else is some dated belief that SMS is more reliable and faster than email, habit, and perhaps they like, as Twitter appeared to have figured out, being limited to such a short amount of space. Or maybe they don’t like the subject field. Look at how I write; I couldn’t survive in a world of 160, let alone 140, alphanumeric. Threaded SMS? You can have threaded email. As for MMS on smartphones otherwise capable of those other things, same question. If you’re truly paranoid about latency your answer, like doctors, is getting your circle to buy pagers.

Breaking balls again with Old Man jimski I was startled briefly, until I thought “Oh wait this is the guy with the AOL account,” that he believes the word texting explicitly covers SMS and that email is being phased out except in business use. Took me by surprise so I found me some comScore stats. Turns out that people ages 12 through 54 (the younger the greater in proportion to older) are spending less time computer for web-based email, though 55 through death 15-17% more. Parenthetically, in spite of this, Gmail on desktops saw a 10% increase year over year in the 12-17 crowd, the crowd most likely (negative forty five percent) to put down the computer and fire up their phone.

So there’s a desktop exodus, the tweens leading the way though they really love Gmail on their computers and/or their phones; overall a 6% drop from desktop web-based emailing. For phones, according to comScore again, the number of people using their phones for email rose 36%, with the age group 25 to 34 rising 60%. Even the old farts bumped up a solid 25%. Nielsen did a similar study last March and, pay attention because this is the most important figure connected to me and Jim, according to this respectable outfit’s surveillance, cell phone users spend significantly more time on email at 38.5% versus any other function of their phones. Second place at 10.5%, tweeting and other social networking, the activity. Text messaging? Not even on the top ten. If you want links, just ask me or Google.

Oh, too many random old men pictures? Sorry…

I’d say “So much for Jim not suffering from some sort of chronic societal disorientation and dissociation” but not so fast, let’s see how these stats I laid out for you jive with some stats of our own right here. If you’d indulge me, zip through some votes below my signature signature.

Doug Simmons

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