US Research by Acision Shows SMS Is Still the King of Messaging With Speed, Reach and Reliability Named as Key Reasons for Usage Over Alternative Services

PLANO, TX--(Marketwire -05/09/12)-

  • 91% of US Smartphone owners surveyed actively use SMS, almost 2.5 times higher than the most popular social media app and over 8 times higher than the most popular Smartphone OTT app
  • Two thirds of US Smartphone owners (65%) state they need SMS, of which 45% would be lost without it
  • 62% of US Smartphone users have unlimited SMS bundles, concluding that the right price is a main factor influencing popularity of SMS vs OTT/IM services
  • SMS & OTT/IM Messaging Services can co-exist with consumers proving they use multiple messaging channels dependent on message type and recipient

New research launched by Acision, the global leader in mobile messaging, has revealed that SMS is still the most prevalent messaging service in the US today when compared to other messaging services such as 'Over the Top' (OTT) Instant Messaging (IM) (OTT/IM) services. With 61% of respondents stating they own a Smartphone today, 91% of this demographic reported using SMS regularly despite having the ability to access different OTT/IM messaging services on their device. In fact, the five most popular OTT/IM services actively used by Smartphone owners today included Facebook (37%), Skype (17%), Twitter (17%), Apple iMessage (11%) and BlackBerry Messenger (10%) -- predominantly social media networks. WhatsApp, the only operating system independent Smartphone OTT/IM application was used by just 5% of US consumers. This demonstrates that while OTT/IM services fuel overall messaging traffic, services are fragmented and overall usage far lower than SMS so cannot be credited as a substitute for the humble text.

The research, which was conducted by Vanson Bourne and examines US consumers' messaging habits and preferences, is the most comprehensive study to date on the mobile messaging landscape. Surveying 1000 mobile US device users across Smartphone owners (61%) and feature phone only owners (39%), the research highlighted that two thirds of the biggest SMS users, Smartphone owners, also stated they needed SMS today (65%) -- with 45% of these saying they would be lost without it -- even though they have easy access to OTT/IM services on a Smartphone. Reliance on SMS was particularly high among younger users aged 18-25 (79%), highlighting the immense value and dependence of messaging in consumers' lives today.

The research also indicated that US consumers send an average of 107 SMS messages per week -- top of all the messaging services. With 62% of US Smartphone users having unlimited SMS bundles this concludes that the right pricing or package encourages SMS usage and may be an influencing factor in the popularity of SMS vs OTT.

With Smartphone adoption amongst the highest in the world, and access to SMS alternatives available to a high number of US consumers, over half of Smartphone owners surveyed stated they also use SMS alternatives (55%). When asked about preference of SMS over OTT/IM messaging services, Smartphone owners cited the main reasons for using SMS were core service capabilities: speed of delivery (47%), reach (43%) and reliability (38%). On the other hand, the top 3 reasons to use OTT/IM messaging services over SMS are enhanced service features: content sharing (28%), speed (27%) and works across devices (25%). Both views indicate that even though enhanced features and the user experience is important for users, core service capabilities are valued significantly higher. Only 4% of Smartphone users said that IM is more reliable and faster than SMS.

"The ubiquity, simplicity and reach of SMS continues to make it the messaging service of choice among mobile users today -- even for Smartphone users that have easy access to SMS alternatives," said James Israel, senior vice president and general manager for North America at Acision. "Acision's in-depth look into messaging offers new insights on user habits as well as their continuing dependence on SMS in conjunction with using other messaging services next to text. What is interesting is that SMS seems to excel on devices that have been more commonly associated with IM services. Based on these results, we can see that price is a key consumer requirement that drives messaging behaviour, but can be eliminated from the equation when comparing SMS and OTT messaging service usage in the US because of unlimited SMS bundles. We can also determine there is a long and healthy future for SMS, if operators get the pricing right and enhance the user experience."

While the research shows there is a continuing appetite for SMS, Smartphone users are also interested in enriched SMS services. When asked about SMS based personalised services, a number of respondents stated that they would be likely to use these if offered by operators including: message delivery notifications (36%), black/white listing (33%); message search (29%); and group messaging (32%). In line with this, almost a third of respondents (28%) said they would even be willing to pay for these enhanced features. This is evidence that there is an opportunity for operators to extend the functionality and life span of text, generate premium revenues and increase customer loyalty and ARPU.

Lastly, in order to test the appetite for operator OTT/IM messaging services (e.g. RCS type services), respondents were asked to rate a service that would include IM, file transfer, group chat and video sharing, and allow them to exchange messages with all SMS and MMS users. Over half of US Smartphone users (52%) said they would use an operator OTT-type service, especially consumers aged between 18-34 show high interests (60%), Only 5% said they would not be interested in this type of messaging service at all. When asked about what such a service should look like, cost related elements stated as number one, two and four, including a lower price compared to the existing service (63%), inclusion in package (57%) and the service price (47%). The other three are related to the core service and that builds on the competitive strengths of SMS, namely reliability (50%), instant delivery (45%) and reach all (42%). Most popular enhanced features were named as a service that can be used across different devices (35%) and allows consumers to share content (32%).

Jorgen Nilsson, Chief Executive of Acision, said, "After looking at these results it is clear that while Smartphone OTT apps and related communities are growing in popularity it still has a long way to go to catch up with the reach, reliability and ubiquitous nature of SMS, especially as nearly half of Smartphone respondents stated they would be lost without SMS. Analysts are predicting that Mobile IM will exceed 1.3 billion users by 2016 (1), compared to over 5 billion users with access to SMS.

"Mobile IM does have its advantages with enriched features for content sharing but the market is currently fragmented as services cannot communicate with each other, and relies on a Smartphone or tablet device with a wifi or mobile broadband connection. For operators to compete with alternative messaging services, not only do they have to become more competitive with the cost incentive of 'freemium' services but also launch their own OTT messaging services which leverages the core strengths of SMS -- speed, reach and reliability -- but with enhanced features that meet and exceed the user experience -- an opportunity ripe for the picking.

"As the leaders in messaging, we are excited about the new opportunities ahead, particularly in LTE messaging services where SMS will still play a leading role but form part of the converged solution next to other services such as MMS, RCS and other carrier driven OTT messaging services -- acting not only as a connectivity tool but a campaign tool particularly for brands wanting to reach the 5 billion consumers with access to SMS today."

This research is part of a wider messaging study conducted by Acision (which surveyed the US and UK markets) with further results being announced over the coming months. To find out more about Acision's mobile messaging research and its role in messaging, please visit Acision on stand 4043 at CTIA 2012.


About Vanson Bourne and the research
Vanson Bourne, a specialist research-led consultancy, carries out user research within a technology context. The company interviews senior decision makers from a variety of functions, across a whole range of industries, in organisations from the smallest to the largest, in markets around the globe. Vanson Bourne's clients range from start-ups to well-known companies that need expert guidance, delivering robust and credible research-based analysis.

Acision's mobile messaging research was conducted in January 2012 with a sample of 1,000 adults in the US.

About Acision
As the global leader in mobile messaging, Acision connects the world by powering relevant, seamless messaging services, which enrich the mobile communications experience and create new opportunities for carriers and enterprises across the world. For more information, visit Acision at

(1) Juniper Research (June 2011): Mobile IM users will exceed 1.3 billion by 2016