SMS Is Passe
December 18, 2013 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Japan and other Asian countries have moved from SMS to smart phone messaging apps, with great success for all.
posted by reenum (85 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Huh? Haven't we all? The only people I use SMS for are the ones outside my regular communication circle.
posted by chisel at 6:33 PM on December 18, 2013


No, we have not all. I still text regularly, though more for basic communications and less for conversations.
posted by maryr at 6:36 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I must be reading this incorrectly. It seems to me that the author is saying that mobile phones in Japan are behind those in the United States. I think that qualifies as 'not even wrong'.
posted by Quonab at 6:37 PM on December 18, 2013


I would also posit that iMessage counts as a smart phone messaging app.
posted by chisel at 6:38 PM on December 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


I know a lot of people who text regularly... so I have Google Voice to forward those messages elsewhere when necessary. Mostly I use Trillian on my phone because it keeps a history for me between my devices and because most of the time if I'm going to be typing words to people I prefer to do it with a keyboard. I'm continually surprised that this is not the usual mode of things.
posted by Sequence at 6:42 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


...Because you can text on any mobile phone, not just the stupidly expensive smartphones. That is why people still text.
posted by maryr at 6:46 PM on December 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


Now, we just need a good, cross-platform messaging system that also has a desktop client. WhatsApp could be that, but they apparently don't want to. iMessage has a desktop client and works well, but is Apple only.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:49 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


My best friend's in Thailand, so when the messaging app craze hit a few years back she suggested Whatsapp and then of course last year we switched to Line. It's been fantastic to communicate (in theory we can even do voice calls for free--which ain't no joke, given how much real long distance would cost even on a cell phone), I love the stickers and she loves the games, and it's genuinely helped our friendship.

On the other hand, this author seems to be positing that Line in particular is the beneficiary of a network effect much like Facebook but on the other other hand, Facebook is struggling a bit dealing with Instagram and Tumblr and Snapchat and its network effect is much greater than Line's. So I'm dubious about the long-term effect, but it sounds like Line's making piles of money now so I doubt they care much about the long-term.
posted by librarylis at 6:52 PM on December 18, 2013


Hangouts "supports SMS" in that it lets you text from the same program that sends instant messages, but it doesn't do the "smart message" thing where it can switch between the two in the same conversation based on a user's availability.

(Not that I care, I know exactly one person who uses text messaging regularly)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:54 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nearly everyone I keep in touch with in Asia is on an iPhone, but we all use Whatsapp to message each other. On my part, that's entirely because international text messages are 'spensive in America and I've iMessages convert randomly to said 'spensive international texts. (-__-; )
posted by peripathetic at 6:56 PM on December 18, 2013


I probably do 75% Google Talk (Hangout) and 25% SMS at this point.
posted by octothorpe at 6:59 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


And it’s easy to see why people quickly adopted Line. An Internet connection gives users free unlimited voice calls, unlimited free messaging, unlimited instant photo sharing, group chats and video communication.

OK, we have that here in the US via Skype, iMessage, SnapChat, etc. The reason we occasionally SMS is that smartphone penetration is not nearly 100%. Is it over there? If so, that is the real story, not "messaging apps are so great in Asia," and it'd be great if the author explained that instead.
posted by ignignokt at 7:00 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I use WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends in Europe, Asia, and most everywhere else. When I first got it not a single USian friend was on it, but now more than half of my contacts are. We'll see what happens when the big $1 per year fee rolls in. I'd pay.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:09 PM on December 18, 2013


I've been using Line for a couple weeks now. I use it to chat with people I play with on this multiplayer (mmo?) iphone game. We discuss strategy and share screenshots and stuff. Line has somehow become the defacto messenger of choice for people who play this game, which has a chinese developer and has a sizeable asian player base.

Anyway, after I installed it, I did the search-for-contacts thing, and it turned up a few people I know in japan, and a few people I know here in the states who know people in japan. I'm not sure what the actual user penetration is like though.

(And, I guess every one I know in china uses QQ (in lieu of sms?), but that's mostly extended family but I don't really talk to them so...)
posted by yeoz at 7:12 PM on December 18, 2013


In descending order: iMessage, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, ... > SMS > .... actually using the phone part of the iPhone.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:13 PM on December 18, 2013


Trillian doesn't do SMS without forwarding through one of the services (last I saw AIM still had a forwarding option, I started doing AIM from my phone long before I had a smartphone) but other than that, it's been cross-platform for basically forever, and more than that, it connects to most of the other services... AIM or gChat/Hangouts or whatever. Skype compatibility is a bit variable, I guess.

I mean, honestly, it's basically that the internet is FULL of messaging services that run on all kinds of computers and smartphones and they've existed for over a decade now, so I don't know what's going on with people thinking we don't have them.
posted by Sequence at 7:15 PM on December 18, 2013


Email is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months. -- Oscar Wilde
posted by Western Infidels at 7:18 PM on December 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'd be fine if we could just pick one and stick with it. Instead, I have AIM, ICQ, Yahoo, MSN Messenger, Facebook, Skype, iMessage, Snapchat...from a life spent on the internets. PICK ONE, PEOPLE, THEN THAT'S IT, THAT'S ALL WE'RE USING.

But yeah my phone bills are hilarious because it's like Phone Minutes Used: 3, Internet Used: ALL OF IT
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:26 PM on December 18, 2013 [16 favorites]


SMS is still handy in a pinch for those places without data coverage. The U.S. is a big country.

I disagree with the article that there will be "no new messaging apps ever". Users use different services with different friend groups and at different phases of their lives. In some cases, not having all your friends on a new app is a *good* thing.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:44 PM on December 18, 2013


This feature may sound creepy but makes it so easy for those not so technically savvy to quickly find and communicate with people you know.

"This feature may sound creepy, but it's so convenient! Oh, and creepy."
posted by No-sword at 7:47 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


one of my older nokia "smart-ish" phones could do IM through yahoo, or MSN, but they had it locked down so that the app used sms for the transport (even if there was wifi, which there usually wasn't). Which was a pretty shitty thing to do when unlimited text messages weren't really a thing.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:47 PM on December 18, 2013


Screw Line. I live in Taiwan, where I guess Line is just as popular as in Japan. When I first downloaded it, they connected my account to my real phone number. Then, in order to suggest contacts to add, not only did they search the contacts in my contact book, but they also searched other people's contact books who had my number but whom I had long ago deleted from my contact book. Moreover, it's literally impossible to delete contacts; you can only hide them (in an easily accessible screen) or block them.

In other words, once I signed up for Line, it automatically added girls that I had gone on a couple of dates with 5+ years ago and who had never deleted my phone number and I couldn't even delete their info, only hide it. And so what's the first screen that my wife (whom I met well after I met any of those girls) goes to when she's poking around my phone, but the hidden contacts list. And they're still there even now. Goddamn you, Line.
posted by alidarbac at 8:00 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm always surprised when people talk about the penetration of whatsapp in general or in their social circle. Nearly 100% of the people I know have a smartphone(and id say the most popular model is "iPhone 4 with a crack in the glass somewhere") and it's a big mix of 20something artists/musicians/designers/creatives and various DJs, show bookers/promoters, and just generally people around those groups and in that age range who are I guess "cool".

No one uses that shit. Everyone still texts, or just uses iMessage. Everyone has unlimited texting so no one cares because that comes with like every prepaid plan now, and all the not-prepaid ones too.

You know what no one does anymore?

Call.

A lot of people won't even answer when you do, or will ignore your call and send a text/iMessage back.
posted by emptythought at 8:03 PM on December 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


You know what no one does anymore?

Call.


And life is a thousand times better for it. When I was a kid, the land line (or, as it was known then, the "phone") rang seemingly constantly as relatives (usually) decided they needed to talk to my parents for some urgent reason. I jumped every time it rang, and I can just remember how interminable the phone calls were (and boring, from my end, usually just my mom going "Oh... yeah. Yeah. No, I don't think so. Yeah.")

Now the only people who interrupt my household life in an unwanted fashion are the uninsured tree service people who come along to give me a business card about three times a week.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:08 PM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Eh, texting plans start at $20 a month on AT&T. It's way cheaper to do pay-as-you-go since almost all of my messages go through iMessage. But it does mean that I don't want to send actual SMS messages.
posted by stopgap at 8:08 PM on December 18, 2013


Cosign emptythought, though a few in my circle still have phones that are not smart. And man, remember when, "I don't have a cell phone," wasn't a marker for "extreme poverty"? I am just baffled by the repeated attempts from all the big carriers to sell me a landline.
posted by klangklangston at 8:18 PM on December 18, 2013


You know what no one does anymore?

Call.


And? Why is that a problem?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:19 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Multitasking with voice calls is very difficult. And both people have to be paying attention to the call at the same time. And you don't get privacy if you're out in public. I will say that I do at least much prefer text, for most things. Voice once in awhile, but not as a routine daily mode of communication.
posted by Sequence at 8:19 PM on December 18, 2013


And you don't get privacy if you're out in public.

Texting also saves you from rude people engaging in interminable phone calls on public transport.
"I'm on the bus."

"I SAID, I'M ON THE BUS."

"SOON."

"OK I'LL GET EGGS. NO YOU HANG UP FIRST. YOU HANG UP FIRST".
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:23 PM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


My family urged me to install Viber, but I don't like that using it disrupts my usual backup strategy for text messages, as I use an app that backs up SMS messages, but they don't get captured if they go through Viber. I also don't like that it seems to want me to update the app itself about once every 24 hours.

"SOON."

Soon.
posted by limeonaire at 8:23 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now, we just need a good, cross-platform messaging system that also has a desktop client. WhatsApp could be that, but they apparently don't want to. iMessage has a desktop client and works well, but is Apple only.

Yes. That is what LINE is
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 8:24 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Multitasking with voice calls is very difficult.

Say what?
When else would I fold laundry, clean up the house, trim flowers, toss out the junk mail, and all other manner of household tasks if not on a call with a phone (a land-line, no less!) tucked under an ear?

I mean, how do you dishes and text at the same time?
posted by madajb at 8:24 PM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've had a smartphone since 2007 and I have never been able to understand why other people with smartphones of their own want to text (email? chat?). Never.

Texting, at least in Canada, has for the longest time cost money. It's stupid! Ridiculous! Idiotic!
posted by KokuRyu at 8:31 PM on December 18, 2013


Yes. That is what LINE is

I have LINE. I use it to send stuff to my wife, and my family back in Japan. LINE is the first Japanese software program I have ever used that is easy to use. Probably because it was created by a Korean company.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:32 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that the author is saying that mobile phones in Japan are behind those in the United States. I think that qualifies as 'not even wrong'.

Native smartphones are quite different than iPhone and Android. The UI and form factor (candy bar and clamshell) are totally different.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:35 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


madajb: " When else would I fold laundry, clean up the house, trim flowers, toss out the junk mail, and all other manner of household tasks if not on a call with a phone (a land-line, no less!) tucked under an ear?

I mean, how do you dishes and text at the same time?
"

I don't. I do dishes and listen to audiobooks/podcasts/streaming music/what have you. If I need to text, my phone is in a waterproof case and if I'm using the iPad in the kitchen, it's in a Ziploc bag, so I just hold down the home button and let Siri handle the dictation for me.

But then, I'm an introvert who hates phone calls. Most months I use less than 10 minutes of voice time (of course, I have to keep a however-many-hundred-minutes-a-month plan going in case it's a month that I have a conference call when I'm out of the office. Argh.)
posted by Lexica at 8:35 PM on December 18, 2013


Here in China (just outside of Hong Kong), a lot of people use WeChat.
posted by lumensimus at 8:39 PM on December 18, 2013


Could anyone out there help an old curmudgeon out and, please explain this to me like I'm a five year old? I have an old 2G phone that I only take with me on long car trips in case of breakdown or emergency. I refuse to text. I don't think it's even enabled on my phone plan (US$14/month). Apologies if this is a derail.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 8:58 PM on December 18, 2013


Whatsapp seems to dominate most of my social circle here in HK, though my wife and I use google hangouts when at work with each other since there are desktop clients. For some reason we also use iMessage with each other when mobile rather than google hangouts or whatsapp. I think we tried settling on hangouts as our universal choice, but had some delivery issues once that meant we reverted to imessage when using our phones.
posted by modernnomad at 9:00 PM on December 18, 2013


I just installed Line to have a look at it. It loaded contacts and the only people I know using it are old colleagues and friends in Asia.
posted by arcticseal at 9:19 PM on December 18, 2013


I didn't know there was a migration away from text. I think I'm becoming one of the olds...
posted by dejah420 at 9:22 PM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


No one uses that shit. Everyone still texts, or just uses iMessage.

That's interesting, my experience has generally been that mobile technology uptake in the US (not availability, necessarily, but uptake) has been much slower than here in Australia or Asia.

Whatsapp dominates my generation here in Australia, and all my friends in India and HK as well. My nieces and nephews seem to favour snapchat.
posted by smoke at 9:28 PM on December 18, 2013


I'd agree, the US and Canada was at least 5 years behind Europe on SMS usage.
posted by arcticseal at 9:31 PM on December 18, 2013


Ever since I discovered Viber, I've been wondering when the cell companies would start developing higher voice quality services as part of their native services. Why hasn't that happened, is there no market advantage? I know 3G or 4G isn't possible everywhere, but where it is, why not?
posted by NiceParisParamus at 9:39 PM on December 18, 2013


Thumb pianos are cooler anyways.
posted by Twang at 9:43 PM on December 18, 2013


It seems to me that the author is saying that mobile phones in Japan are behind those in the United States. I think that qualifies as 'not even wrong'.

Well, Japanese-made smartphones are suffering in the marketplace both at home and abroad. iPhones have really taken off in Japan (iPhone is by far the leading smartphone there). So they're not really worse, but they're not ahead of the US the way they used to be.
posted by wildcrdj at 9:43 PM on December 18, 2013


Interesting the differences in usage. Personally, I never (rarely) use the phone, use a lot of internet for browsing and video and twitter and whatnot, and text a fair amount.

But for work, everyone on different phones, traveling in different coverage areas, personnel splitting and regrouping constantly and --especially in winter-- redoing travel plans on the fly, we use plain ol' texting for about 95% of everything. Seems way more reliable and instantaneous than other things and everyone's phone can get a text.
posted by umberto at 9:55 PM on December 18, 2013


When I first downloaded it, they connected my account to my real phone number. Then, in order to suggest contacts to add, not only did they search the contacts in my contact book, but they also searched other people's contact books who had my number but whom I had long ago deleted from my contact book.

This is why apps suck. SMS is a native function in GSM - unconnected to the rest of your phone - once you download and an app, you open everything in your device to it.

Apps are like installing a backdoor into your device that gives a third party access to information (your contacts, browsing history, etc.) which a sensible person should not want to do.

Nothing is free folks. Giving away personal information to save a few dollars isn't a bargain.

If you value your privacy, SMS is well worth the cost.
posted by three blind mice at 10:14 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Being immersed in this messaging app phenomenon is why I doubt any new messaging apps will overtake the current bunch on market share. There’s no room for anything new, as the most popular messaging apps fulfill all communication needs. Private communication? Check. ..

Wrong. We've no messaging apps that provide any real degree of privacy in a seamlessly user friendly package.

We could design IM applications that make off-the-record messaging default to on whenever using IMs protocol like XMPP, ala Google Talk, Facebook chat, etc. Arguably, CyanogenMod has started this process in ernest by integrating TextSecure, but much more is possible.

And off-the-record messaging inherently leaves your communications open to metadata collection, traffic analysis, etc. New systems like Pond might provide this over Tor.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:19 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd be fine if we could just pick one and stick with it.

With Jabber (XMPP), the whole problem of different networks becomes one of coordinating a few companies to adopt a standard instead of coordinating a gajillion users.
posted by Jpfed at 11:02 PM on December 18, 2013


Could you imagine if email worked this way? "I used to email using Hotmail, but them all my friends moved to Yahoo mail so I switched to that so I could message them. Now the cool kids are using Gmail so I better install that too". Of course email is generally a dying medium, but at least it has interoperability.

The nice thing about SMS is it's a global standard. I can SMS from my US friend to this guy in Bali 'm going to meet next week. It may be slow and not free, but it works. iMessage is also smart in integrating into SMS but using the cheaper TCP/IP network to send messages. WhatsApp and Line and stuff are fine and all, but they are proprietary apps with proprietary protocols. Fuck that.

(See also: the sad history of interoperability in instant messengers, specifically the 2000-ish requirement from an antitrust judge that AOL be forced to accept messages from non-AIM networks. That requirement was never implemented and later lifted.)
posted by Nelson at 11:12 PM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Could anyone out there help an old curmudgeon out and, please explain this to me like I'm a five year old? I have an old 2G phone that I only take with me on long car trips in case of breakdown or emergency. I refuse to text. I don't think it's even enabled on my phone plan (US$14/month). Apologies if this is a derail."

So, you've used IM clients, right? Like, AOL Instant Messanger or iMessage? Gchat? It's like that, but for your phone. It's quick and easy to keep in touch, and it's a little bit richer than a SMS.

Which, honestly, I just find a lot more convenient for short interactions — when my girlfriend needs me to get beer on my way home from work, it's a lot easier to text than it is to call. And hey, it was invented in, like, the '80s and runs as part of the protocol for routing calls (first landlines, then cells), if I remember correctly. So pretty much every phone has it, it's just not necessarily accessible (well, and it does need relay station access, I think).
posted by klangklangston at 11:15 PM on December 18, 2013


Messaging apps on phones took off because telecommunications corporations abused the shit out of the literally free SMS protocol feature. Also there's nothing more rage inducing than getting that critical text three days later. AND HEY STEVE JOBS, THEY'RE CALLED TIMESTAMPS. JESUS.

20$ a month for something that uses your built in infrastructure and costs you nothing? Versus connecting to my wifi for free.

But judging from this overage notice pop-up from Comcast I'm getting, apparently everyone is looking into the "over-charging the consumer for basic, aging infrastructure" business model.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 11:31 PM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


klangklangston: "So, you've used IM clients, right? Like, AOL Instant Messanger or iMessage? Gchat? It's like that, but for your phone. It's quick and easy to keep in touch, and it's a little bit richer than a SMS.

Which, honestly, I just find a lot more convenient for short interactions — when my girlfriend needs me to get beer on my way home from work, it's a lot easier to text than it is to call. And hey, it was invented in, like, the '80s and runs as part of the protocol for routing calls (first landlines, then cells), if I remember correctly. So pretty much every phone has it, it's just not necessarily accessible (well, and it does need relay station access, I think).
"

First of all, many thanks! I am an ICQ veteran from ages ago. So, it's SMS but with a few more features? If so, OK, thanks, I think I understand better now. And please, don't anyone think I'm knocking texting because I'm not. I'm a huge believer in people doing whatever they feel works best for them. Sometimes I just don't get it, though. Anyway, thanks again for the info, and I'll refrain from saying any more about texting (via whatever medium) simply because I don't wish to derail the thread any more than I feel I already have. Thanks again!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:32 PM on December 18, 2013


Yeah, it's like SMS with a few more features, and also can be subject to fewer weird delays and legacy issues related to the foibles of carriers. And it's kind of an argument for net neutrality, in that part of the problem with SMS is (though this has gotten way better) that carriers used to fuck with messages from other carriers. On some carriers when mobile SMS first started getting widely adopted, you couldn't text people on different carriers. Even now there's sometimes weird delays for doing that. So using a different, neutral protocol for messengers (mobile internet) means less short-sighted dickery, in general.
posted by klangklangston at 12:00 AM on December 19, 2013


You're all so old and out of touch...I use Gadzorp.©
posted by sexyrobot at 1:07 AM on December 19, 2013


I mean, how do you dishes and text at the same time?

I dunno, I saw a delivery guy texting while on his motorbike today. The funny thing is you can slide your phone into your helmet and talk hands-free.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:19 AM on December 19, 2013


This is rather a revelation to me. I'm in the arts industry in Australia and don't know anyone that uses anything other than sms, and I send a few hundred a month. It's free these days on most plans and everyone has it so why would we change?

Is this other Australian's experience?
posted by deadwax at 3:54 AM on December 19, 2013


this seems dumb. are most plans these days coming with unlimited 3g/4g but not unlimited sms? I pay usd35/month (and that used to be $20...! but then I had to get a new phone, so.) for unlimited text, unlimited 3g (to like 2.5gb then the speed gets capped 'til the end of the month), and completely unlimited 4g.

sure, that might provide some incentive to use data-based applications rather than cell-based, but it still seems silly. and as others have mentioned, flip phones are going to be around for a while. I don't work for the government but we basically get paid by the government, and a flip phone is what you are going to get.

also, as others have mentioned, the text messages are piggybacked onto the carrier's control frames (which was infuriating back when telcos charged for texts. or some apparently still do? jerks.) - i.e. they are very reliable even when you have no data (and generally even when you have no bars - with very low signal, hit a tower a single time, and the sms will likely come through)

I do use google voice exclusively (which may also be fairly dumb, given my privacy/paranoia) - no one knows my actual cell#. text messages go to both the actual SMS of my phone, and my email. (oh and to the GV app as well) - so I'm going to get the message either of the 3 ways. and receive the message nearly regardless of if I have wifi or data or barely 1 bar. but the nice part is that no matter which way I choose to respond to the message, the conversation thread is going to be consistent in all of the 3 ways.

that's where I can see a true reason for an application - if the directory/routing precedes the SMS function. but otherwise, what?
posted by dorian at 4:46 AM on December 19, 2013


I've turned my phone's notifications for SMS off.

I think SMS is great at, and should be used exclusively for, asynchronous communications. If I send a text, it's because I'm not expecting an immediate reply, otherwise I would have just called. I shouldn't ever have to worry about interrupting anything (movies, lectures, driving, etc) if I send a text; I should just be able to send it and wait for someone to reply at their convenience.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:20 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's truly remarkable that there's no mention of BBM in this discourse, in terms of its former prominence, its moribund present, and some sort of general statement cribbing from Ozymandias.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:29 AM on December 19, 2013


When I saw the FPP I immediately assumed there was a fast free fully-encrypted text app. Ah! There it is - Line, eh?

"Private? Check." Excellent. Computer! Bring me information on this new "Line" app!

[reads] . . the hell? Not only is there no encryption, there's no anything to protect privacy. No opt-in, no "deleted from our servers right away!", not even a farted promise!

Wow. This must be, like, difficult to figure out. And stuff. *rolls eyes back into throat, chokes, dies*
posted by petebest at 5:40 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bah humbug, if you really need to get to me you have my pager number... and the patience to wait for me to find a pay phone.
posted by sammyo at 5:42 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think SMS is great at, and should be used exclusively for, asynchronous communications. If I send a text, it's because I'm not expecting an immediate reply, otherwise I would have just called. I shouldn't ever have to worry about interrupting anything (movies, lectures, driving, etc) if I send a text; I should just be able to send it and wait for someone to reply at their convenience.

QFT.

there are so many people, esp. older (not that I'm any young at this point) that have some unfounded fear of texts, like there is some mandate to respond immediately.

the whole point of it is the asynchronicity. or ok to me it is. I simply want to inform someone of something. I don't require a timely response or a photo or some social-site crap.
posted by dorian at 5:43 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I live in South Asia, and everyone here does use some form of message app to keep in touch. I was really happy with gchat until I realized it would not let me be "invisible" when signed into to both the messaging service and email. I don't understand that. I just want to chat with my husband, not advertise myself as available to everyone in my chat list. So I switched to Viber, and also have Whatsapp for non-Viber folks.

But phone calls are still way better and more convenient for fast and effective information exchange. I kind of miss that actually. Back and forth messaging (and waiting for replies, etc) about every little thing is tedious overkill, imo.
posted by sundaydriver at 5:46 AM on December 19, 2013


I will immediately invalidate my Young and Hip credentials by saying I've subscribed to a newsletter (and then done it a few more times; who knew they'd ever start to be usefu?l) about mobile technology and every week the one thing that makes me feel like I'm getting old and out of touch is a story about WhatsApp or a similar messaging application. I don't get it. Why would anyone in their right mind risk vendor lock-in for a few bells & whistles?

I'd agree, the US and Canada was at least 5 years behind Europe on SMS usage.

We definitely are, but that tends to be because the near-monopoly carriers have enjoyed gave them little incentive to innovate. To wit:

Eh, texting plans start at $20 a month on AT&T.

BUT

No one uses that shit. Everyone still texts, or just uses iMessage. Everyone has unlimited texting so no one cares.

The future is coming to the US, it's just unevenly distributed. We recently changed to T-Mobile and it's been a revelation in terms of pricing and freedom. T-Mobile and the smaller yippy dogs like them are clearly hurting the big vendors given AT&T has rolled out a "Looks just like T-Mobile's plan but we will fuck you anyway" plan and Sprint has made noises about buying T-Mobile*.

Texting has been a cash cow for US carriers forever but they're going to have to start really competing and the first thing to do there is give away free unlimited texting (my understanding is the marginal cost of a text to the carrier is effectively zero as it piggy-backs on the cell tower ping which is why they can only be so large). To me in the US, the rise of these messaging apps seems to be a result of a market inefficiency (i.e., $.20 per text or whatever nonsense the carriers were getting away with). Take away the artificial restrictions on customers' ability to text and I can't see one of these apps winning out:

1. Look at how many there already are. It feels really flavor of the month and dog-eat-dog.
2. Are they all going to be interoperable? Will they stay that way if a competitor is crushing them?
3. If they actually get large enough they'll be competing with Facebook and it will eat them and everyone will try Facebook's new messaging client, decide it sucks and go back to texting while Zuckerberg fumes in his volcano and tries to find another way to look at all your mail.

* Which is doubly amusing: did you find some money in the couch cushions? I thought you were broke Sprint. If you aren't, how about using some of the money to buy lawyers to explain the anti-trust rules to you in small words.
posted by yerfatma at 5:53 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


And? Why is that a problem?

It isn't. I just think it's interesting that there's a "death of the text" article, but that the call died without so much as a fart.

The only thing that bugs me is that the call DOES have one purpose anymore. Sometimes you really just need an immediately response, and need to know they got the message and aren't just taking a shit with their phone on the couch. "Hey, i'm here at the bolt rack and the store closes in two minutes? Which size bolt went into that thing? M5?".

Some people are so adamant about not answering their phones, that even when you're standing outside their apartment building they won't pick up. It's passive aggressive and moronic.

Eh, texting plans start at $20 a month on AT&T. It's way cheaper to do pay-as-you-go since almost all of my messages go through iMessage. But it does mean that I don't want to send actual SMS messages.

Eh, AT&T is the worst mobile company in america though. I've had AT&T, t-mobile, verizon, sprint(resold through qwest) and nextel(both straight up, and resold as boost before they moved onto sprints CDMA network). AT&T not only had piece of shit flaky service that consistently didn't work in downtown seattle on a busy day, but had crappy support and shady billing practices(yea, you totally "accidentally" double billed a bunch of people or charged them for shit that wasn't on their plan. Totally, an accident, not a calculated move) and tons of other stuff.

Verizon forces you to have unlimited texting now pretty much with their new "bucket" plans, it comes with pretty much any tmobile plan right down to the $30 one that also includes "unlimited" data, and every cheap prepaid plan that isn't directly from AT&T or verizon includes it.

Everyone i know in their early 20s is either using one of the MVNOs like virgin/boost/straight talk(which is AWESOME)/net10/etc, one of the cheap plans from tmobile or something, or they're still on their parents plan and possibly paying into it if they have big-carrier service. But either way, whether with a big-carrier family plan or one of the cheap prepaid plans you have to actually try at it to not end up with unlimited texting. It's pretty easy to get unlimited data, too.

And man, remember when, "I don't have a cell phone," wasn't a marker for "extreme poverty"?

I think the snake has eaten it's tail and it's transitioned to being strictly a life choice. A lot of the homeless shelters/outreach programs in my city apparently give out phones. And besides that, most of the homeless people(especially young homeless people) i see around my house, which seems to be in the center of a massive nexus of them, have phones. A pretty gnarly looking crust punk-ish hobo dude was playing games on his nexus 7 outside my work a few days ago. Watched him pull it up out of his big army rucksack past his sleeping bag and stuff. I was just stuck going :o and "damn, it is the future".

I do remember that time though, that was high school for me earlier in the 2000s. I actually didn't have a phone for most of high school, and the beginning of college too. I had been unceramoniously constructively kicked out of my parents house in high school and well, my phone was cancelled not long after.

I finally got a cheap prepaid one again right when that started being a thing in the US. The funny thing was, my girlfriend at the time didn't have one either.

That was at that transitional point in time though, where as you said, it really wasn't that weird to not have a phone. I'd say a good percentage, maybe even as high as 30-35% of the kids at my school didn't. and this wasn't some "ghetto ass school of the hard knocks" type place, pretty much just a mix of middle class kids that skewed towards kids of hippie burner type parents and weirdos. By college though, i was kind of the odd man out. I didn't really care though and just acted like it was a choice, and it still wasn't quite ubiquitous enough that anyone thought anything of it.

Now though, whenever i hear someone say "yea i don't have a phone" it's followed 99.99999% of the time by "yea, it sucks. i'm getting a new one on wednesday though when bla bla bla happens"

You can't even get a job without a phone anymore. When i got my first job i didn't have a phone. When i quit my first job, i had an iPhone. At the beginning it wasn't really that weird, by the end it would have been very weird.

That was a two year period. This transition sure happened fast.
posted by emptythought at 6:19 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


emptythought:
You know what no one does anymore?

Call.

A lot of people won't even answer when you do, or will ignore your call and send a text/iMessage back.
Oh sweet Jesus my wife is like this and it pisses me off so much.

I'm driving and can't text right now! Answer the damn phone so I know what to pick up for dinner on my way home!

I keep telling her that I'm going to get in a serious accident some day and the police will call her and she'll never be able to hear me say goodbye because she wouldn't know I was dead until hours later.
posted by charred husk at 6:27 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sure, the big carriers are moving to all-inclusive bucket plans that have unlimited messaging, but on AT&T those plans start at $20 more, so the effect is exactly the same as the old $20 messaging add-on. I have to use AT&T for work, so I can't save money with any other carrier or MVNO, and I'm not giving them $20 for SMS messages.
posted by stopgap at 6:28 AM on December 19, 2013


I keep telling her that I'm going to get in a serious accident some day and the police will call her and she'll never be able to hear me say goodbye because she wouldn't know I was dead until hours later.
posted by charred husk at 9:27 AM on December 19 [+] [!]


Eponydepressing.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:29 AM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ok, I've got one.

Why can't I find a modern smartphone that comes with a "mark SMS unread" option? I'm seriously considering going back to Blackberry just because of that.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:31 AM on December 19, 2013


Because modern smartphones don't deal with texts as discrete messages anymore but as continuous conversations. It'd be like marking a single IM "unread".
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:34 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's truly remarkable that there's no mention of BBM in this discourse, in terms of its former prominence, its moribund present, and some sort of general statement cribbing from Ozymandias.

I was reading the other day that BBM for Android/iOS is doing pretty well.
posted by ersatz at 6:45 AM on December 19, 2013


Sometimes you really just need an immediately response, and need to know they got the message and aren't just taking a shit with their phone on the couch.

That's where read receipts come in, the little gems.

I'm driving and can't text right now! Answer the damn phone so I know what to pick up for dinner on my way home!

Talking on phones while driving is really pretty dangerous. Plenty of people I know will hang up as soon as they know you're driving. Stop calling and hopefully you'll avoid the serious accident.
posted by bonaldi at 6:52 AM on December 19, 2013


bonaldi:
Talking on phones while driving is really pretty dangerous.
Even if you're using hands-free/bluetooth? Doesn't seem any more dangerous than talking to the person next to you.
posted by charred husk at 6:57 AM on December 19, 2013


Viber is my messaging app of choice (they also have a desktop app now). I use prepaid and sometimes go for a week or more before I even think to top up. Since I have Wifi at work, and most other places I go, I'm usually able to message freely.

My wife and I also have a skype plan for landline numbers and calling overseas. It's only when we're out in between places or unusual spots that we still need traditional Cell minutes and TXT. But even then we are mostly just using data.

I think the day will soon come that cellphones are data only plans and people completely stop using them for traditional cellphone calling or texting.
posted by cicadaverse at 7:12 AM on December 19, 2013


Even if you're using hands-free/bluetooth?

Yes:
  • The benchmark study comes from the University of Utah in 2006. A test of 41 adults found that driving while intoxicated was actually less dangerous than driving while talking on a hand-held phone or a hands-free phone. The study found non difference between performance in the hand-held and hands-free conditions, but cellphone users had more crashes than drunk drivers. That was a small study but its results have been repeated.
  • This year, a study at Touro University of 80 drivers found that impairment between drunk drivers and hands-free cellphone drivers was roughly equal.
  • In real life, 24% of all car crashes involve cellphone conversations, according to the National Safety Council.
  • The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration believes that the research shows that talking on a phone is more risky than talking to a passenger in the car with you.
  • And, if you're still not convinced, the MythBusters crew put the hands-free myth to the test and found that Adam, who tried to conduct a conversation over the phone, did worse on a driving course than Kari, who drove drunk.

  • posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:32 AM on December 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


    Not only is there no encryption, there's no anything to protect privacy.

    Those who would give up privacy to get tiny expensive digital stickers deserve neither privacy nor stickers.
    posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:26 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


    I didn't know there was a migration away from text. I think I'm becoming one of the olds...

    Yeah, I've only started texting regularly in the last year, apparently just in time for it to become uncool. And apparently the hip new options all involve the warm embrace of yet another social media company, so . . . .

    I'm settling nicely into curmudgeonry.
    posted by General Tonic at 8:28 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


    Yeah, even with hands free, phone conversations whilst driving are hazardous. If I get called then I deal with the call quickly and get back to driving. It amazes me how many people I see with new model cars that certainly have BT though and still drive with the handset clamped to their ear. Texting while driving is an absolute no-no and I will actively look to not drive next to you if I see you doing that.
    posted by arcticseal at 9:34 AM on December 19, 2013


    charred husk,

    To expand on EndsOfInvention's data citations, I did some work related to this for a master's thesis, so I might be able to explain a little of WHY talking on the phone is different than talking to a passenger. It's mostly because passengers are watching you drive, and the environment, and are getting tons of non-verbal cues as to when to respond and when to shut up and wait.

    People on the other end of a phone line, no matter how polite and understanding, simply do not have that context, and it puts a significant load on drivers to try to keep track of and manage that type of conversation. Your auditory cognitive load is probably also a lot higher just trying to understand what's being said over a noisy, low-quality audio connection like a regular voice call.
    posted by Nutri-Matic Drinks Synthesizer at 9:37 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


    Relevant xkcd.

    The nice thing about SMS is that all of my friends who have cell phones can use it.
    posted by sparklemotion at 12:45 PM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


    So everyone has a data plan now?
    posted by 256 at 12:49 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


    Even if you're using hands-free/bluetooth? Doesn't seem any more dangerous than talking to the person next to you.

    Totally top-of-the-head explanation for why bluetooth is different than talking to a passenger: A passenger knows not to talk to you when you're making a tricky left turn or whatever. Over the phone there's more pressure to keep the conversation moving since the person on the other end isn't as aware of the other things the driver is doing.
    posted by no regrets, coyote at 2:57 PM on December 19, 2013


    A lot of people won't even answer when you do, or will ignore your call and send a text/iMessage back.

    Oh sweet Jesus my wife is like this and it pisses me off so much.


    understandable annoyance if it is a spouse/partner/etc. doing that.

    but

    I have the opposite problem, except with coworkers - despite being asked to text or email me as the most likely chance to get an immediate response, certain of them still insist on trying to call. and leave a voicemail. since I am not going to answer. and whenever I initiate email to these certain few, the response is guaranteed to be a phone call rather than an email or text. hooray.

    I DON'T HAVE 45 MINUTES TO SPEND ON THE PHONE WITH YOU WHEN YOU COULD JUST READ THE WIKI/OR-OTHER-EXPLANATORY LINK I SENT YOU JEEZ.

    what's even worse? and this is kinda sorta well ok all my fault in not using GV properly - these certain few coworkers know the actual# of my cell in addition to the GV#. and even the actual# of my landline. and despite being asked to simply use the GV#, BECAUSE IT RINGS EVERY FRIGGIN' PHONE I OWN, these certain few insist upon calling, more or less in order -
    (and yes these certain few don't just call one of these, they call ALL OF THESE IN ORDER)
    (a) my work extension which is on SIP worldwide and rings my softphone and work-at-home hardphone. voicemail goes to email which I may not listen to but it shows me who called.
    (2) my GV# that I told them to call in the damn first place, except I told them to email me in the damn first place. may or may not give me a transcript of the voicemail.
    (vii) my real cell# which I accidentally let them find. that voicemail gets listened to never.
    (12) my home "not-exactly-a-landline-but-close-enough", which I also accidentally let them find. yeah, that voicemail gets listened to never, too.

    actually this confounds me even more in re: the actual topic. I tell people to try emailing me first as the best way of getting a quick response. I have k9mail (work, personal) and gmail (personal) on my phone, which work well to substantiate this. the ones that have latched onto my home and real cell#, I make specially sure to let them know not to call those numbers or leave messages at those numbers. guess what?

    in conclusion:

    why in the SEVEN HELLS is there some need for 3rd party "messaging" crap on a smartphone, when it is in fact *a smartphone* and comes with built in email apps??!?
    posted by dorian at 6:28 PM on December 19, 2013


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