The heart of tech is coming to the heart of the Mediterranean. Join TNW in València this March 🇪🇸

This article was published on June 12, 2011

Did Apple create an SMS-killer? The short answer is no

Did Apple create an SMS-killer? The short answer is no
Nancy Messieh
Story by

Nancy Messieh

Lesotho-born and raised, Nancy Messieh, The Next Web's Middle East Editor, is an Egyptian writer and photographer based in Cairo, Egypt. Fol Lesotho-born and raised, Nancy Messieh, The Next Web's Middle East Editor, is an Egyptian writer and photographer based in Cairo, Egypt. Follow her on Twitter, her site or Google+ or get in touch at [email protected]

Apple just barely announces the existence of iMessage and the world screeches to a halt. Blackberry stocks take a dive and the future of SMS in the US is called into question. And I’m personally left feeling very confused.

Sure there’s no denying Apple’s clout, or the popularity of its products worldwide. But if flame wars on the net are anything to go by, Android users, despite any quirks the OS might have, are as loyal to their OS as Apple users are to iOS.

Apple doesn’t surprise me one bit. But it’s the public reaction that has me wondering if we’re giving Apple just a little bit more credit than it deserves.

For full disclosure, I’m writing this blog post using my trusty Macbook, and am one of those people who is probably going to wait until the new iPhone comes out, after which I will ditch my relatively new Android phone and will happily go back to iOS. Did I mention the iPad sitting to my right?

That said, I am the kind of person who ventures out and tries other products. So these thoughts don’t come from an anti-Apple stance whatsoever. They come from an anti-lemming stance.

There’s a whole open source community that will never adopt Apple’s products as long as the company continues to have such a tight stranglehold on how developers are allowed to use their products – they’re simply going to stick with Android.

And Blackberry users are not going to suddenly ditch their phones in favour of the iPhone just because Steve Jobs announced a supposed BBM killer. I find it very hard to believe that the millions of Blackberry users who opted for the brand did so because of one minuscule messaging feature.

And to believe that SMS is going to meet a swift demise because of iMessage is hard to fathom. In fact, to give iPhone users alone the credit to the sudden end of SMS as we know it, with the release of iMessages, is pretty presumptuous in my opinion.

Only a cross platform application adopted by countless Blackberry, Android and iPhone users could truly achieve the accolade of bringing SMS use to a complete standstill. Not a single one of the existing apps, including Whatsapp, despite its popularity, was able to do so. This mainly comes down to one fatal flaw – how do you ensure that each and every one of your friends chooses the exact same app that you do? Short of grabbing their phones out of their hands, and downloading the app for them, there’s no real way to make that happen.

It’s the same dilemma we all face with chat programs. You’ve got a few friends on Skype, a couple who still insist on using MSN, a long list on Google Chat. So what do you end up doing? Using an app like Trillian to keep up with all your friends.

This is not even taking into account the fact that SMS continues to be a popular method of communication in most third world countries, and is even used as a tool to spread awareness as was displayed by e-health efforts in Kenya, to help stop the scourge of counterfeit drugs. This is also without taking into account the possibility that there still exists a vast number of cell phone users who don’t have a data plan at all.

The only way in which SMS will ever truly cease to exist, in the western world at least, is if Apple, Blackberry and Android join forces and agree on creating an app that is to mobile messaging, what Trillian is to chatting. And that’s never going to happen.

If and when users do cease to use SMS entirely, you can still count on your carriers to send out annoying promotional messages to your phone using… yes, SMS.