Happy Birthday/Retirement, SMS

It’s the most efficient communication medium ever devised: the Short Messaging Service, or SMS. Most of us just call it texting, as if it were the most natural thing to do with text. And it kind of is. You type something on your phone, you hit send, and your contact receives it and can respond to it in real-time. No need for hellos, goodbyes, discussing the weather, or asking how their day is going. It’s easy to send, easy to ignore, it’s just an awesome thing…and it won’t be around forever.

On ReadWrite.com, Dan Rowinksi celebrates the 20th anniversary of this simple, but conversation-changing mobile communications medium (the first ever use of which was to say “Merry Christmas”) by discussing its inevitable obsolescence. From the article:

The harbinger of the fall of the text is the smartphone. The following notion cannot be overstated: Smartphones are the equivalent of powerful computers that go wherever we do. As such, almost anything that can be done on a computer can now be done on a smartphone or a tablet. That means popular chat and instant messaging services that were once the domain of the PC are now available to anybody with a smartphone and a data connection.

And it’s true, Google Talk, iMessage, Facebook Messenger. There are tons of ways to send terse, easily misconstrued messages to each other on our powerful smartphones. But for any one of them to truly conquer humble old SMS, it’s go to be just as convenient as SMS and just as tech-agnostic.

When it comes to convenience, SMS defines the term. I don’t have to find my messaging app, wait for it to open, and then begin texting. I just type. Seems hard to beat, although some messaging clients have found ways to do so…by being a little bit sneaky.

For instance, Apple coopts your text messages and automatically sends them as iMessages to contacts who have Apple devices. On the user end, it’s no different than sending an SMS, other than the color of the text bubble. That means I, as a heavy text user, use SMS about half as much as I think I do. And I don’t really care as long as it works the same.

Just as important as ease of use, though, is its tech-agnosticism. With SMS, you don’t have to care what device, what service provider, what app any of your contacts use. You just send the text. For instance, iMessage only works when the other person has an Apple product (and when they don’t, it actually slows down the text as the iPhone still sometimes tries to send it as an iMessage first). And sure, some companies are trying to offer aggregator apps that are supposed to be tech-agnostic, but none have really pulled it off in an intuitive, simple way that really works well.

So SMS can celebrate its 20th Christmas with a little big of job security. At least for now.

Photo credit: Aleksi Aaltonen, Flickr