VAL KILMER’S antics in ‘The Saint’ are no longer a part of fiction. Today, our mobile phones can do all that and much more. There isn’t a device which has transformed as dramatically as the mobile phone. The ‘List’ of things we can do with mobile just keeps getting longer and will continue to get longer. Today a hand phone serves as a watch, as an entertainment device, as a gaming console, a productivity tool, keeping appointments, handling emails and the works.
Having said all that, its main function still remains the same – allowing people to stay connected. This is never going to change as we get busier and more mobile. The big change, over the years however is that a large number of people have now started connecting over messaging, more than voice. So did Val Kilmer in “The Saint”, He keyboarded way more than he spoke. Messaging as an application has made a lot of progress but the 160 character black and white SMS avatar still rulles. That dominance though is under significant threat now given the growing popularity of BBM, Facebook and Instant Messenger. To understand what could become a new consumer trend, let us analyse the market and why some of the challengers have failed to beat the boring old SMS.
The first category of SMS competitors are platform specific messaging products like Blackberry Messenger (BBM) or Apple’s iMessage. These products are possibly as quick and as effient as the SMS but restrict you to message only those friends who use the same handset platform. Thus despite being much cheaper and as robust, the popularity remains limited.
Th other category of messaging products is more platform agnostic like Whats app, Kik and soon. These gained popularity because they allowed users to message friends over data across handset platforms. However, here the challenge is not so much platform but that both parties need to have this application on the handset to communicate. Thus despite having a higher potential reach in comparison to platform dependent products these too loose out to the SMS, as they cannot connect users to their entire phonebook.
The third category of messaging products available are more IM’s (like Yahoo Messenger, GTalk, FB messenger) or even IM aggregators (like eBuddy, Nimbuzz). Most of these products were created for the PC and later found their way onto the phones with handsets getting internet enabled. Though quite popular on the PC, these too lost out to SMS as these products were not really connects were not really connecting you to your phonebook friends but to contacts who were using these services and were there on your buddy/friends lists.
Thus SMS remains the killer app it started as. Some of the reasons of its continued importance being simplicity and most importantly its ability to let users stay connected with all friends on your phonebook. Theoretically SMS will be replaced by an app which has at least these three attributes it not more.
For a company to create something which could surpass the popularity of SMS, it not only will need to have a product which would work across all need to work with the telecom carriers to make its messaging backward compatible and interportable with SMS, After years of research and hard work, I am happy to inform that we have launced the beta version of Affle’s innovative messaging product – Pinch, which could vey well be the solution we have all been waiting for. Will let time be the judge on that….
The writer is CEO, Affle, a Singapore-based mobile media company