‘I’m so over SMS’: 2013 is the year youth abandon SMS in favor of Twitter, WhatsApp and Kik


SMS traffic has peaked. 2013 is the year that mobile messenger app traffic will surpass SMS.

Key Insights

  1. Youth are the Change Agents: Youth turned SMS into become a trillion-dollar market for mobile in the last decade. A new study, commissioned by Twitter from Compete, shows that people in the 18-34 age group are 52 percent more likely than other age groups to use a mobile device to access Twitter.
  2. Like for Like: Youth are still texting each other but they have changed the platform of choice from SMS to messaging apps. The behavior remains the same but the tool has changed.
  3. Make-or-Break Year: 2013 is the watershed year for mobile operator brands to replace lost SMS revenues with growing revenue from messenger apps.


Mobile operators face a decline in ARPU. As youth shift from SMS to messenger apps, operators can no longer depend on SMS as a reliable income source.

Operators leave an open door to competition from messenger apps as first time mobile owners opt for non-SMS clients as de-facto messenger. Messaging apps from Facebook, Apple and Skype are well positioned to implement payments for VOIP and video chat.

Operators risk opening up the long tail to competition from shopping and entertainment apps as well. The Twitter study shows youth are 169 percent more likely to exchange messages when shopping, and three times as likely to use the messaging app before or after seeing a movie.

Mobile operators need to focus on youth. The messaging market gets born and dies with the youth market. What people use tomorrow is what youth are using today. Operators need to invest in the future instead of protecting the past. Attempts to generate more income from SMS will only yield diminishing returns. The key question for operators is how can they take advantage of the messaging app boom.

Key Questions

  1. Who are the change agents of the mobile messenger market?
    • Which youth beachhead is driving messenger app growth?
  2. What is the Social Currency of messenger apps?
    • Why do youth prefer messenger apps to SMS and voice?
  3. How do they manage the diverged landscape?
    • What are the social behavioral niches for each app?

Discover the Mobile Generation

The Mobile Youth Book"A compelling exploration of how the mobile youth culture revolution is driving our increasingly social and mobile future" - Derek Baird, Director Product Development, Disney"This book offers instant texture to anyone confused by the core technology driver" - Edward O'Meara, SVP Wunderman"What makes this book such a great read is that’s it’s written as a narrative in the life of different young people around the world" - Marc Kornberger, CEO Student Village* Kindle/iPad version from Amazon * Paperback from Amazon * PDF download online
Print Friendly

Share this article

About Graham Brown

Co-founder of mobileYouth. Cultural explorer, ethnographer and digital anthropologist. Author of The annual mobileYouth report and books The Mobile Youth: Voices of the Mobile Generation, All is Social, The Youth Marketing Handbook, Fans and Youth Marketing 101.

How to Connect

Add on Google+
Facebook Page
My author page on Amazon
Contact me