The skyrocketing popularity of mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat, iMessage and Facebook Messenger has been traced to an unlikely source: Loved-up teens sending flirty messages to each other.
Research from Deloitte has revealed that the number of instant messages sent in Britain is set to double this year, reaching 300 billion by the end of 2014. In comparison, 160 billion were sent in 2013.
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Emoticons are a key part of this trend, with many young smartphone owners sending more than 270 instant messages a day – many of which will be only a smiley face or a heart.
In comparison, the average person sends 46 virtual messages a day, or three per waking hour. That's far more, coincidentally, than the seven texts most people send every day.
Deloitte claims that the growth is being driven largely by puppy love, as teenagers appropriate technology to flirt and socialise with potential lovers.
It's believed messaging apps are so popular because they can be sent for a fraction of the price of texts. They are also a far more convenient way of attaching more personal pictures and videos, and as such are particularly attractive to multimedia-savvy younger users.
"A constant among humans is courting and they use different tools to do it. It used to be hanging on the phone, now it's instant messaging," Paul Lee, head of technology research at Deloitte, told The Guardian.
The survey also revealed that the number of text messages sent in the UK fell for the first time in 2013, as instant messaging services rose in popularity and began replacing the SMS system.
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