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OMG is txting ovr? Number of UK texts falls for first time

The number of text messages sent in Britain has fallen for the first time since their invention 20 years ago, according to a major new study.

Accounting firm Deloitte's annual technology predictions report (opens in new tab) has found that the number of old-fashioned texts (SMS and MMS) sent last year is estimated to have fallen by 7 billion to 145 billion. The report, which was released on Monday, forecasts a further drop in 2014 to 140 billion.

The plummet has been attributed to the rise of Internet-based instant messaging (IM) services such as WhatsApp (opens in new tab) and Snapchat (opens in new tab), which have exploded onto the market and changed the way mobile users are interacting.

Deloitte's head of telecoms research, Paul Lee, said, "This is the first decline in texting in the UK since texting was invented. We have reached a tipping point. But the usage of mobile phones to send messages is stronger than ever. This year, trillions of instant messages will be sent in place of a text message."

The report claims that 160bn instant messages were sent in Britain last year, surpassing the number of texts sent for the first time. The report claims that the shift to instant messaging has largely taken place among the younger generations of phone users.

According to Lee, 300bn instant messages will be sent by the end of 2014, which is more than twice the annual number of texts. Lee predicts 50bn instant messages to be sent each day worldwide – 18 trillion over the next 12 months – compared with 21bn texts.

Among the report's other findings are that smartphone use is increasing among older users, with the number of senior citizens owning a smartphone to increase from 29 per cent in 2012 to 47 per cent by the end of 2014. The generation gap is expected to have disappeared completely by 2020.

Nokia produced the first mobile phone capable of writing texts in 1993, and by 2001, the UK was sending more than 1 billion texts a month.

Image: Flickr (Tammy McGary)

Paul Cooper
Paul Cooper

Paul has worked as an archivist, editor and journalist, and has a PhD in the cultural and literary significance of ruins. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, The BBC, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and Discover Magazine, and he was previously Staff Writer and Journalist at ITProPortal.