Soon You'll Be Doing This Instead Of Texting, Because SMS Is About To Get Seriously Outdated
Texting has shaped the way millennials communicate with everybody in their lives, but it's quickly becoming outdated. As more personal and private mobile platforms develop, messaging apps are taking over for texting. They're becoming much more than ways to chat with friends and family, though. Like the Chinese messaging giant WeChat, U.S. messengers are starting to make it possible to shop, call a car, or make a dinner reservation through the app, so your conversations aren't interrupted as you open and close multiple apps on your phone.
The biggest downfall of texting is the lack of nonverbal communication — only your words and the occasional emoji can express your thoughts and feelings to the person on the other end. This inevitably leads to a lot of misunderstandings and confusion about what your fellow texter actually meant, or how they were feeling. "The vast majority of what we communicate comes across through body language, facial expressions, your environment, your tone," says Ari Roisman, co-founder and CEO of the video messaging app Glide. "All that is lacking with text."
Roisman wants to fix this problem. Glide, for example, allows people to quickly and seamlessly send video messages to friends and family around the world. With a video, none of your emotions or facial expressions are lost, but the app also allows you to type out messages when necessary. "You're starting to see communication which is inherently more human and more expressive — and also more satisfying to consume — becoming more and more popular," Roisman tells Bustle. "I believe that with time, that will really become the standard."
Even messengers that don't focus on video offer benefits over texting. Kik, for example, became popular among teens because it's more private. Unlike texting and apps like WhatsApp, which are linked to your phone number, Kik functions on usernames. So if you meet someone on Instagram but don't want to disclose your phone number just yet, you can give them your Kik username instead. The messenger also allows you to stay in contact with friends from every social media platform in one place, which streamlines your mobile social life and saves time otherwise spent switching from Snapchat to Instagram to Yik Yak.
"Kik is kind of the private layer that connects all these public networks," said Ted Livingston, founder and CEO of Kik, during a panel at Forbes' Ignition conference in December. "People don't want to use a messenger for every platform they're on." According to Kik's website, more than 40 percent of American youth use the app.
"Messaging is one app that people are spending a lot of time in," says Jason Wong, an analyst at the technology research company Gartner who studies mobile apps. Because of this, app developers are testing out ways to make money from their messengers, and they'll soon become much more than just a place to chat with friends. It's already begun, with Facebook and Uber partnering to allow Facebook Messenger users to call a car without leaving the app.
"With this new feature, you can request a ride from a car service without ever needing to download an extra app or leave a conversation," Seth Rosenberg, Facebook product manager, said in a blog post.
"It’s super easy, and doesn’t take you away from the plans that you're making with your friends or family."
On top of transportation, messengers could make it possible to communicate with businesses that currently send e-mail notifications and updates that often go unread. What would this look like, you ask? Let's say you order a sweater online — the store could message you a receipt and the tracking information. Then, if you need to change your order later, you could message the company with your request. Shopping and getting in contact with companies would be much faster and simpler, and all done on your phone.
The biggest obstacle for developers wanting to recreate the all-inclusive nature of WeChat in Asia is America's slow wireless networks. While mobile users in Hong Kong have data speed up to 150 Mbps, 4G networks in the U.S. only go up to 10 Mbps. Limited speed makes it more difficult to incorporate apps within apps (like how WeChat functions) because it will make the entire app work slower. "Any time you add more functionality, you’re potentially degrading the performance," Wong says. So America probably won't reach the same level of messenger app power as China any time soon.
Though becoming more popular and useful, it's also unlikely that messengers will completely replace texting. "Obviously texting is more open of a platform," Wong tells Bustle. "You can text anybody as long as you have that number." To use many messengers, you need a person's username or account before you can chat, and both parties have to have the app downloaded, whereas everyone with a cell phone has texting.
It won't be completely eliminated, but texting is already more than 20 years old, and messengers are quickly making it the grandfather of the mobile communication world.