Text messaging provides mobile phone subscribers with an opportunity to communicate unencumbered by temporal or spatial constraints. Conveying concise information quickly and efficiently, text messages are both a multipurpose utility and a growing trend in communication. They enable those who use them to connect with others, regardless of distance or circumstance. They also enable those who apply and monitor them to carve literally billions of dollars out of the mobile phone market.
"SMS" is an acronym for "Short Message Service;" a standardized communication involving the transfer of short text messages between cellular phone users. With yearly usage well into the trillions of messages, SMS is easily the most prevalent form of modern communication in the world. To date, nearly 120 million U.S. cellular phone subscribers use SMS messaging A recent Neilsen study indicates that SMS messaging is more widely used than the standard phone call. Among some age groups, SMS messaging is used nearly exclusively. The study found that U.S. subscribers between the ages of 13-17 sent an average of 1,742 SMS messages per month, in direct contrast to 231 voice calls in the same period.
For most consumers, their "SMS phone number" is simply their mobile phone number. With the growing awareness that SMS communication holds a global and growing share in the communications market, however, various entities have been adopting "Short Codes" to generate revenue in exchange for value-added services. A "Short Code" is essentially a mobile telephone number that, being significantly shorter than an average number (typically 4-6 digits in length), is designed to be easier to remember. They frequently are chosen to numerically represent words or phrases that make them easier for the intended user to retain and utilize.
A short code is usually connected with an automated service, which stores the sender's SMS phone number in order to generate content-based SMS messages. This allows marketing companies to narrowcast with remarkable specificity. For example, a short advertisement may be aired during a prime time police drama stating, "Text 'police' to 12345 to receive the latest updates about the cast of tonight's show and get on the case." Upon receiving SMS messages, the automated service connected with it adds the sender's phone number to a database for the generation of automatic messages. These messages are sent to supplement, in this case, viewing of the show. Such interaction is highly useful for marketing trend analysis, in addition to maintaining audience interest. Also, subscribers can be charged higher rates for messages sent to short codes, allowing for even more revenue generating potential.
SMS communication dominates the global communication market. Far from showing any indication of lessening, current trends indicate SMS shall continue to grow exponentially. With its convenience and multipurpose applications, SMS messaging seems to be the way we all want to communicate.
Less Distance, Or More?
Perhaps an implied statement of our desire for emotional distance in communication, the growing trend in SMS messaging seems to speak less about our desire to connect, and more about our desire for control. A text message can be sent in seconds, and covertly. We need no longer spend five protracted minutes actually talking to loved ones or coworkers; we can, instead, convey exactly the information we wish to share at the time we wish to share it. As with many steps in the evolution of communication, it seems with SMS messaging, the more we talk, the less we connect.