Is it time to ditch text messaging?

Chat_icon The world is now more connected than it has ever been before.

Thanks to new technology, people can exchange information very quickly. Two popular forms of electronic communication are email and text messaging. Text messaging is the "newer" technology of the two, but email is obviously still widely used. Although text messaging is newer than email, text messages are restricted by past requirements and since email has continued to evolve, it offers a much better alternative on current mobile devices.

Is it time to ditch text messaging for good?

First, a brief history lesson.

Text, or SMS messaging, was first used in 1992. The first text was not actually sent from a mobile device, but from a desktop computer to a Vodaphone mobile device. What makes SMS technology unique is that it was built to transmit data over 1990's cellular networks. At that point in time, mobile networks were just beginning to expand, but they were still quite weak. Technology did not yet exist to send large amounts of data over them. In fact, when text messaging was introduced, users could only send 140 bytes, or 160 letters, in a text.  

Because of this limit, text messages were originally meant to be used as a substitute when a voice call was not possible, but people soon began to adopt them as a primary means of communication. Thus, text messaging continued to grow and is now the most widely used mobile service in the world other than voice calling.  In some countries, there are almost 30 texts for each person every day!

In 1961, when the Internet was first being developed, electronic messaging, or email, was also introduced. Email was created as a means of communication between users of a single mainframe. Although email has changed greatly since then, the main idea remains the same. A user of email can send a file to another user, identified with an email address. This file travels to the server or mainframe of the other user, where it can be accessed and read. Today, almost everyone with an Internet connection has an email address, and it is one of the most popular forms of private online communication.

As mobile data networks grew stronger, texting continued to evolve. Protocols such as MMS were added to the SMS protocol, allowing things such as images and videos to be transmitted along with text. This helped text messaging to become a more modern form of communication, but because it was still based on the old SMS protocol, users were and still are limited in what they can do. For example, users are still restricted by size limits and can only send small photos and videos.

Because text messaging is limited by these old protocols designed for technologically ancient networks, I think it has reached a limit in its evolution and therefore remains quite confining to its users.

In a manner similar to that of texting, email also had to evolve with its technology, but it was able to keep up much better. As the Internet quickly evolved and became stronger, so did email. And because of the way email works, it can easily grow and adapt to faster networks. The idea can stay the same, sending a file to another server, while the technology advances. For example, you can now use multiple protocols for email. This adaptability allowed email to grow and become quite complex. Not only does email lack a character limit, but you can also include HTML in an email, which allows for rich text formatting, image embedding, and more.

You can also attach much larger, better quality images and videos in an email. Even though there is currently still a limit on attachment size, it will rise steadily as the Internet expands. Thus, unlike texting, email will continue to grow and become a richer option for transmitting information.

If email is so much better than texting, then why do people continue to use it?

Because they’re used to it. In the past, you had to use texting on mobile devices because it was the best you could get. Mobile networks could not handle the complexity that makes email more powerful.

Now, networks have evolved while people have not. Today’s networks can easily handle most emails, yet people continue to use text messaging. Some feel it is more instant than email, while others simply don't seem to realize that there are better alternatives. Push email, for example, can be as instant as texting on mobile devices. 

So email matches the instant nature of texts and also offers a better medium for delivering information. From its complex text formatting to its support of numerous attachments, email has many more features and abilities than text messaging. And since mobile networks, the only thing limiting email’s usefulness on mobile devices, are ready, it only makes sense to drop texting altogether and begin using email as the primary form of communication (other than voice) on mobile devices.

What do you think?

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Aaron Orquia

Aaron Orquia is an associate editor at Pocketables. He has been using Android and Linux since he bought his first computer years ago, and his interest in technology, software, and tweaking both to work just right has only grown stronger since then. His current gadgets include a OnePlus One, a Pebble smartwatch, and an Acer C720 Chromebook.

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