Mark Bridge writes:
This week my lovely wife made a rare error in leaving her mobile phone behind when she left the house. Fortunately I was working at home, so I was able to answer her calls and relay her messages. But it got me thinking. What were the alternatives?
Well, Mrs B could have gone online and diverted her voice calls to another number. Perhaps to her desk phone, her work mobile or her VoIP number. Not every UK network lets you do this, although the technology is theoretically there. You just pay for the forwarded part of each call. Alternatively, she could have called her voicemail service and picked up messages remotely (in the style of a rogue News of the World journalist, perhaps).
Her email - which is set up on her phone - can also be accessed as webmail, so there’s no problem there.
But text messages? They can’t be diverted. Unlike Instant Messaging, which turns up on whichever device you’re using, dear old SMS insists on heading for your SIM card.
Now, there are smartphone apps out there that’ll do SMS forwarding. There may even be SMS forwarding apps that can be started remotely. But that’s messy and ultimately unreliable. After all, what happens when your battery goes flat?
Sure, SMS is simple. SMS works on almost every device. However, those aren’t reasons that concern consumers when they’re buying smartphones.
When the features of SMS are compared with IM, SMS looks pretty inflexible. Instant, multi-device and always-on are today’s buzzwords.
Which leads me to my conclusion. Unless networks introduce some kind of online SMS forwarding option, the service could soon be seen as obsolescent. Legacy. Dying.
In fact, a recent report from consultancy Mobile Youth suggested a fondness for IM could cause a 20% drop in text volumes among younger mobile users within the next two years.
On the other hand, reality TV voting will do its best to keep us sending messages, even if we’re chatting about the show on Facebook. Banks and advertisers seem happy to pay for sending SMS, even if we’re moving away from it.
Yes, I think cloud-based services may make conventional text messaging seem horribly out-of-date. And yes, I think they’ll eventually replace it. But, rather like a bad actor hamming his way through a performance of Count Dracula, it looks as though the death of SMS will be a drawn-out affair.