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More U.S. SMS Messages than Voice Calls


Mobile phone service providers can rejoice. The average mobile phone subscriber in the U.S. sent and received more SMS text messages than mobile telephone calls during Q2 2008, according to Nielsen.

This was the second consecutive quarter in which the average number of text messages was significantly higher than the average number of voice phone calls. Finally, the U.S. market is beginning to catch-up with this truly global phenomenon.

Although the research is an indicator of rising mobile data use, the two types of mobile communication are not directly comparable. Users typically convey far more information in a voice call than in a text, so text conversations can require multiple messages.

The comparison is also one of synchronous and asynchronous communications: Phone calls are synchronous and e-mail, for example, is asynchronous.

"The issue with text is that it occupies a middle ground," said John du Pre Gauntt, senior analyst at eMarketer.

"It's as instantaneous as a phone call and is directly connected to the person, unlike e-mail, which can sit until the person fires up their PC and checks it -- or has it pushed to their phone, which means it is acting like a text anyway."

Mr. Gauntt explained that communicating by text was close to having a conversation, and noted that marketers could embed links to pop text sessions into other media -- click-to-map, click-to-call, click-to-video.

The biggest mistake for marketers is to confuse texting by users over age 35 with asynchronous e-mail. If we look at text or Twitter and IM, there is a lot of value to textual communication that comes closer to -- but is not the same as -- synchronous voice communications. Marketers engaging with text still need to master the art of conversation.

Why all the interest in texting? Revenues from all ad-supported messaging in North America will approach $4 billion by 2011.

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