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A user typing a text message on an LG enV (VX9900)

Text messaging, or texting, is a form of [[C computer mediated communication]] and refers to the exchange of brief written text messages between fixed-line phone or mobile phone and fixed or portable devices over a network. While the original term (see below) was derived from referring to messages sent using the Short Message Service (SMS) originated from Radio Telegraphy, it has since been extended to include messages containing image, video, and sound content (known as MMS messages). The sender of a text message is known as a texter, while the service itself has different colloquialisms depending on the region: it may simply be referred to as a text in North America, India, Australia, the Philippines and the United Kingdom, an SMS in most of Europe, and a TMS or SMS in the Middle East and Asia.

Text messages can be used to interact with automated systems such as ordering products and services for mobile phones or participating in contests. Advertisers and service providers use direct text marketing to notify mobile phone users about promotions, payment due dates and other notifications that can usually be sent by post, e-mail or voicemail.

In a straight and concise definition for the purposes of this English Language article, text messaging by phones or mobile phones should include all 26 letters of the alphabet and 10 numerals, i.e., alpha-numeric messages, or text, to be sent by texter or received by the textee.[1]


SMS messaging was first used on 3 December 1992, when Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old test engineer for Sema Group[2] (now Airwide Solutions),[3] used a personal computer to send the text message "Merry Christmas" via the Vodafone network to the phone of Richard Jarvis.[4][5]

Standard SMS messaging uses 140 bytes per message, which translates to 160 characters of the English alphabet using 7-bit encoding or as few as 70 characters for languages using non-Latin alphabets using UTF-16 encoding. (The commonly cited limit of 140 characters is imposed by some services like Twitter that reserve 20 characters for non-message content, like addressing.)[5][6] Initial growth of text messaging was slow, with customers in 1995 sending on average only 0.4 message per GSM customer per month.[7] One factor in the slow take-up of SMS was that operators were slow to set up charging systems, especially for prepaid subscribers, and eliminate billing fraud, which was possible by changing SMSC settings on individual handsets to use the SMSCs of other operators. Over time, this issue was eliminated by switch-billing instead of billing at the SMSC and by new features within SMSCs to allow blocking of foreign mobile users sending messages through it.

SMS is available on a wide range of networks, including 3G networks. However, not all text messaging systems use SMS, and some notable alternate implementations of the concept include J-Phone's SkyMail and NTT Docomo's Short Mail, both in Japan. E-mail messaging from phones, as popularized by NTT Docomo's i-mode and the RIM BlackBerry, also typically use standard mail protocols such as SMTP over TCP/IP.

Today, text messaging is the most widely used mobile data service, with 74% of all mobile phone users worldwide, or 2.4 billion out of 3.3 billion phone subscribers, at end of 2007 being active users of the Short Message Service. In countries such as Finland, Sweden and Norway, over 85% of the population use SMS. The European average is about 80%, and North America is rapidly catching up with over 60% active users of SMS by end of 2008. The largest average usage of the service by mobile phone subscribers is in the Philippines, with an average of 27 texts sent per day by subscriber.


File:Smstextmessage eng.gif

An English text messaging interface on a mobile phone

Text messaging is most often used between private mobile phone users, as a substitute for voice calls in situations where voice communication is impossible or undesirable. In some regions, text messaging is significantly cheaper than placing a phone call to another mobile phone; elsewhere, text messaging is popular despite the negligible cost of voice calls.

Some text messages such as SMS can also be used for the remote controlling of appliances. It is widely used in domotics systems. Some amateurs have also built own systems to control (some of) their appliances via SMS.[8][9]

A Flash SMS is a type[10] of text message that appears directly on the main screen without user interaction and is not automatically stored in the inbox. It can be useful in cases such as an emergency (e.g. fire alarm) or confidentiality (e.g. one-time password).[11]

Short message services are developing very rapidly throughout the world.

SMS is particularly popular in Europe, Asia (excluding Japan; see below), United States, Australia and New Zealand and is also gaining influence in Africa. Popularity has grown to a sufficient extent that the term texting (used as a verb meaning the act of mobile phone users sending short messages back and forth) has entered the common lexicon. Young Asians consider SMS as the most popular mobile phone application.[12]

In China, SMS is very popular and has brought service providers significant profit (18 billion short messages were sent in 2001).[13] It is a very influential and powerful tool in the Philippines, where the average user sends 10–12 text messages a day. The Philippines alone sends on the average 400 million text messages a day, or approximately 142 billion text messages sent a year,[14] more than the annual average SMS volume of the countries in Europe, and even China and India. SMS is hugely popular in India, where youngsters often exchange lots of text messages, and companies provide alerts, infotainment, news, cricket scores updates, railway/airline booking, mobile billing, and banking services on SMS.

Texting became popular in the Philippines in 1998. In 2001, text messaging played an important role in deposing former Philippine president Joseph Estrada. Similarly, in 2008, text messaging played a primary role in the implication of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in an SMS sex scandal.[15]

Short messages are particularly popular among young urbanites. In many markets, the service is comparatively cheap. For example, in Australia, a message typically costs between A$0.20 and $0.25 to send (some prepaid services charge $0.01 between their own phones), compared with a voice call, which costs somewhere between $0.40 and $2.00 per minute (commonly charged in half-minute blocks). Despite the low cost to the consumer, the service is enormously profitable to the service providers. At a typical length of only 190 bytes (including protocol overhead), more than 350 of these messages per minute can be transmitted at the same data rate as a usual voice call (9 kbit/s). There are also free SMS services available, which are often sponsored and allow sending SMS from a PC connected to the internet.

Mobile service providers in New Zealand, such as Vodafone and Telecom NZ, provide up to 2000 SMS messages for NZ$10 per month. Users on these plans send on average 1500 SMS messages every month.

Text messaging has become so popular that advertising agencies and advertisers are now jumping into the text messaging business. Services that provide bulk text message sending are also becoming a popular way for clubs, associations, and advertisers to reach a group of opt-in subscribers quickly.

Emergency services

In some countries, text messages can be used to contact the emergency services. In the UK, text messages can be used to call the emergency services after registering with the emergencySMS service. This service is primarily aimed at people who, by reason of disability, are unable to make a voice call, but has recently been promoted as a means for walkers and climbers to call[16][17] emergency services from areas where a voice call is not possible due to low signal strength.

Commercial uses


A multimedia message on a Sony Ericsson mobile phone

Short codes

Short codes are special telephone numbers, shorter than full telephone numbers, that can be used to address SMS and MMS messages from mobile phones or fixed phones. There are two types of short codes: dialing and messaging.

Text messaging gateway providers

SMS gateway providers facilitate the SMS traffic between businesses and mobile subscribers, being mainly responsible for carrying mission-critical messages, SMS for enterprises, content delivery and entertainment services involving SMS, e.g., TV voting. Considering SMS messaging performance and cost, as well as the level of text messaging services, SMS gateway providers can be classified as resellers of the text messaging capability of another provider's SMSC and/or offering the text messaging capability as an operator of their own SMSC with SS7.[18]

SMS messaging gateway providers can provide gateway-to-mobile (Mobile Terminated–MT) services. Some suppliers can also supply mobile-to-gateway (text-in or Mobile Originated/MO services). Many operate text-in services on shortcodes or mobile number ranges, whereas others use lower-cost geographic text-in numbers.[19]

Premium content

SMS is widely used for delivering digital content, such as news alerts, financial information, logos and ringtones. Such messages are also known as premium-rated short messages (PSMS). The subscribers are charged extra for receiving this premium content, and the amount is typically divided between the mobile network operator and the value added service provider (VASP), either through revenue share or a fixed transport fee. Services like 82ASK and Any Question Answered have used the PSMS model to enable rapid response to mobile consumers' questions, using on-call teams of experts and researchers.

Premium short messages are increasingly being used for "real-world" services. For example, some vending machines now allow payment by sending a premium-rated short message, so that the cost of the item bought is added to the user's phone bill or subtracted from the user's prepaid credits. Recently, premium messaging companies have come under fire from consumer groups due to a large number of consumers racking up huge phone bills.

A new type of free-premium or hybrid-premium content has emerged with the launch of text-service websites. These sites allow registered users to receive free text messages when items they are interested in go on sale, or when new items are introduced.

An alternative to inbound SMS is based on long numbers (international mobile number format, e.g., +44 7624 805000, or geographic numbers that can handle voice and SMS, e.g., 01133203040[19]), which can be used in place of short codes or premium-rated short messages for SMS reception in several applications, such as TV voting, product promotions, and campaigns. Long numbers are internationally available, as well as enabling businesses to have their own number, rather than short codes, which are usually shared across a lot of brands. Additionally, Long numbers are non-premium inbound numbers.

In business

The use of text messaging for business purposes has grown significantly during the mid-2000s. As companies seek competitive advantages, many employees turn to new technology, collaborative applications, and real-time messaging such as SMS, instant messaging, and mobile communications. Some practical uses of text messaging include the fuse of SMS for confirming delivery or other tasks, for instant communication between a service provider and a client (e.g., stock broker and investor), and for sending alerts. Several universities have implemented a system of texting students and faculties campus alerts. One such example is Penn State.[20]

As text messaging has proliferated in business, so too have regulations governing its use. One regulation specifically governing the use of text messaging in financial-services firms engaged in stocks, equities, and securities trading is Regulatory Notice 07-59, Supervision of Electronic Communications, December 2007, issued to member firms by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. In 07-59, FINRA noted that "electronic communications", "e-mail", and "electronic correspondence" may be used interchangeably and can include such forms of electronic messaging as instant messaging and text messaging.[21] Industry has had to develop new technology to allow companies to archive their employees' text messages.

Security, confidentiality, reliability and speed of SMS are among the most important guarantees industries such as financial services, energy and commodities trading, health care and enterprises demand in their mission-critical procedures. One way to guarantee such a quality of text messaging lies in introducing SLAs (Service Level Agreement), which are common in IT contracts. By providing measurable SLAs, corporations can define reliability parameters and set up a high quality of their services.[22] Just one of many SMS applications that has proven highly popular and successful in the financial-services industry is mobile receipts. In January 2009, Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) published the Mobile Banking Overview for financial institutions in which it discussed the advantages and disadvantages of mobile channel platforms such as Short Message Services (SMS), Mobile Web, Mobile Client Applications, SMS with Mobile Web and Secure SMS.[23]

Mobile interaction services are an alternative way of using SMS in business communications with greater certainty.

Typical business-to-business applications are telematics and Machine-to-Machine, in which two applications automatically communicate with each other. Incident alerts are also common, and staff communications are also another use for B2B scenarios.

Businesses can use SMS for time-critical alerts, updates and reminders, mobile campaigns, content and entertainment applications.

Mobile interaction can also be used for consumer-to-business interactions, such as media voting and competitions, and for consumer-to-consumer interaction, for example, with mobile social networking, chatting and dating.

Worldwide use


File:SMS roaming welcome messages - Redvers.jpg

SMS is used to send "welcome" messages to mobile phones roaming between countries. Here, T-Mobile welcomes a Proximus subscriber to the UK, and BASE welcomes an Orange UK customer to Belgium.

Europe follows next behind Asia in terms of the popularity of the use of SMS. In 2003, an average of 16 billion messages were sent each month. Users in Spain sent a little more than fifty messages per month on average in 2003. In Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom, the figure was around 35–40 SMS messages per month. In each of these countries, the cost of sending an SMS message varies from €0.04–0.23, depending on the payment plan (with many contractual plans including all or a number of texts for free). In the United Kingdom, text messages are charged between £0.05–0.12. Curiously, France has not taken to SMS in the same way, sending just under 20 messages on average per user per month. France has the same GSM technology as other European countries, so the uptake is not hampered by technical restrictions.

In the Republic of Ireland, a total of 1.5 billion messages are sent every quarter, on average 114 messages per person per month.[24] In the United Kingdom over 1 billion text messages are sent every week.[25]

The Eurovision Song Contest organized the first pan-European SMS voting in 2002, as a part of the voting system (there was also a voting over traditional phone lines). In 2005, the Eurovision Song Contest organized the biggest televoting ever (with SMS and phone voting).

During roaming, that is, when a user connects to another network in different country from his own, the prices may be higher, but in July 2009, EU legislation went into effect limiting this price to €0.11.[26]

United States

In the United States, text messaging is also popular; as reported by CTIA in December 2009, the 286 million US subscribers sent 152.7 billion text messages per month, for an average of 534 messages per subscriber per month.[27] The Pew Research Center found in May 2010 that 72% of U.S. adult cellphone users send and receive text messages.[28]

In the U.S., SMS is often charged both at the sender and at the destination, but, unlike phone calls, it cannot be rejected or dismissed. The reasons for lower uptake than other countries are varied—many users have unlimited "mobile-to-mobile" minutes, high monthly minute allotments, or unlimited service. Moreover, push to talk services offer the instant connectivity of SMS and are typically unlimited. Furthermore, the integration between competing providers and technologies necessary for cross-network text messaging has only been available recently. Some providers originally charged extra to enable use of text, further reducing its usefulness and appeal. In the third quarter of 2006, at least 12 billion text messages crossed AT&T's network, up almost 15 percent from the preceding quarter.

In the United States, while texting is widely popular among the ages of 13–22 years old, it is increasing among adults and business users as well. The age that a child receives his/her first cell phone has also decreased, making text messaging a very popular way of communication for all ages. Texting has become so involved in the American lifestyle that text poet Norman Silver published his "10 Txt Commandments".[29] The number of texts being sent in the United States has gone up over the years as the price has gone down to an average of $0.10 per text sent and received.

In order to convince more customers to include text messaging plans, some major cellphone providers have recently increased the price to send and receive text messages from $.15 to $.20 per message.[30][31] This is over $1,300 per megabyte.[32] Many providers offer unlimited plans, in which texting is mostly free.


In addition to SMS voting, a different phenomenon has risen in more mobile-phone-saturated countries. In Finland, some TV channels began "SMS chat", which involved sending short messages to a phone number, and the messages would be shown on TV a while later. Chats are always moderated, which prevents sending harmful material to the channel. The craze soon became popular and evolved into games, at first slow-paced quiz and strategy games. After a while, faster-paced games were designed for television and SMS control. Games tend to involve registering one's nickname and, after that, sending short messages for controlling a character on screen. Messages usually cost 0.05 to 0.86 Euro apiece, and games can require the player to send dozens of messages. In December 2003, a Finnish TV channel, MTV3, put a Santa Claus character on air reading aloud messages sent in by viewers. On March 12, 2004, the first entirely "interactive" TV channel, VIISI, began operation in Finland. That did not last long, as SBS Finland Oy took over the channel and turned it into a music channel named The Voice in November 2004.

In 2006, the Prime Minister of Finland, Matti Vanhanen, made front-page news when he allegedly broke up with his girlfriend with a text message.

In 2007, the first book written solely in text messages, Viimeiset viestit (Last Messages), was released by Finnish author Hannu Luntiala. It is about a business executive who travels throughout Europe and India.

Mobile-service providers in Finland offer contracts in which one can send 1000 text messages a month for the price of €10.


Japan was among the first countries to adopt short messages widely, with pioneering non-GSM services including J-Phone's SkyMail and NTT Docomo's Short Mail. Japanese adolescents first began text messaging, because it was a cheaper form of communication than the other available forms. Thus, Japanese theorists created the selective interpersonal relationship theory, claiming that mobile phones can change social networks among young people (classified as 13- to 30-year-olds). They theorized this age group had extensive but low-quality relationships with friends, and mobile-phone usage may facilitate improvement in the quality of their relationships. They concluded this age group prefers "selective interpersonal relationships in which they maintain particular, partial, but rich relations, depending on the situation."[33][34] The same studies showed participants rated friendships in which they communicated face-to-face and through text messaging as being more intimate than those in which they communicated solely face-to-face. This indicates participants make new relationships with face-to-face communication at an early stage, but use text messaging to increase their contact later on. It is also interesting to note that as the relationships between participants grew more intimate, the frequency of text messaging also increased.

However, short messaging has been largely rendered obsolete by the prevalence of mobile Internet e-mail, which can be sent to and received from any e-mail address, mobile or otherwise. That said, while usually presented to the user simply as a uniform "mail" service (and most users are unaware of the distinction), the operators may still internally transmit the content as short messages, especially if the destination is on the same network.


Text messaging is popular and cheap in China. About 700 billion messages were sent in 2007. Text message spam is also a problem in China. In 2007, 353.8 billion spam messages were sent, up 93% from the previous year. It is about 12.44 messages per week per person.

It is routine that the People's Republic of China government monitor text messages across the country for illegal content.[35]

Among Chinese migrant workers with little formal education, it is common to refer to SMS manuals when text messaging. These manuals are published as cheap, handy, smaller-than-pocket-size booklets that offer diverse linguistic phrases to use as messages.[36]


In 1995, Short Message Service was introduced as a promotional gimmick but soon became very popular. In 1998, Philippine mobile-service providers launched SMS as part of their services, with initial television marketing campaigns targeting hearing-impaired users. The service was initially free with subscriptions, but Filipinos quickly exploited the feature to communicate for free instead of using voice calls, which they would be charged for. After Telcos caught on to this, they soon started charging for SMS. The current rate across networks is 1 peso per SMS (about US$0.023). Though users were now charged for SMS, it remained very cheap, about one-tenth of the price of a voice call. This low price led to about five million Filipinos owning a cell phone by 2001.[37]

Because of the highly social nature of Philippine culture and the affordability of SMS compared to voice calls, SMS usage shot up, and texting quickly became a popular tool for Filipinos to keep in touch with their friends and loved ones. Filipinos used texting not only for social but also for political purposes, as it allowed the Filipinos to express their opinions on current events and political issues.[38] As a result, it became a powerful tool for Filipinos in promoting or denouncing certain issues and was a key factor during the 2001 EDSA II revolution, which overthrew then-President Joseph Estrada, who was eventually found guilty of plunder.

According to 2009 stats, there are about 72 million mobile-service subscriptions (roughly 80% of the Filipino population), with around 1.39 billion SMS messages being sent in the Philippines daily.[39][40] Because of the large amount of text messages being sent by Filipinos, the Philippines became known as the "text capital of the world" during the late 1990s until the early 2000s.

New Zealand

There are three main telecommunication company networks in New Zealand. Telecom NZ was the first telecommunication company in New Zealand and owns all the land lines; however, it also leases them out for other companies to use. Vodafone acquired Bellsouth New Zealand in 1998 and claims to hold 53.7% of New Zealand's mobile market as of 30 December 2007,[41] and 2degrees arrived in 2009. As of 2005, around 85% of the adult population had a mobile phone.[42] In general, texting is more popular than phone calls, as it is viewed as less intrusive and therefore more polite.


Text messaging will become a key revenue driver for mobile network operators in Africa over the next couple of years.[43] Today, text messaging is already slowly gaining influence in the African market. One such person used text messaging to spread the word about HIV and AIDS, something that significantly impacts Africans.[44] Also, in September 2009, a multi-country campaign in Africa used text messaging to expose stock-outs of essential medicines at public health facilities and put pressure on governments to address the issue.[45] It's encouraging to see text messaging as a means to spread the word about health issues in Africa, the use of which is somewhat different from other continents.

Social impact

The advent of text messaging made possible new forms of interaction that were not possible before. A person may now carry out a conversation with another user without the constraint of being expected to reply within a short amount of time and without needing to set time aside to engage in conversation. Mobile phone users can maintain communication during situations in which a voice call is impractical, impossible, or unacceptable. Texting has provided a venue for participatory culture, allowing viewers to vote in online and TV polls, as well as receive information on the move.[46] Texting can also bring people together and create a sense of community through "Smart Mobs" or "Net War", which create "people power".[47]

Effect on language

Template:Ref improve section

Main article: SMS language

This sticker seen in Paris satirizes the popularity of communication in SMS shorthand. In French: "Is that you? / It's me! / Do you love me? / Shut up!"

The small phone keypad has caused a number of adaptations of spelling: as in the phrase "txt msg", "lol", "brb", "HMU", or use of CamelCase, such as in "ThisIsVeryLame". To avoid the even more limited message lengths allowed when using Cyrillic or Greek letters, speakers of languages written in those alphabets often use the Latin alphabet for their own language. In certain languages utilizing diacritic marks, such as Polish, SMS technology created an entire new variant of written language: characters normally written with diacritic marks (e.g., ą, ę, ś, ż in Polish) are now being written without them (as a, e, s, z) to enable using cell phones without Polish script or to save space in Unicode messages.

Historically, this language developed out of shorthand used in bulletin board systems and later in Internet chat rooms, where users would abbreviate some words to allow a response to be typed more quickly, though the amount of time saved was often inconsequential. However, this became much more pronounced in SMS, where mobile phone users do not generally have access to a QWERTY keyboard as computer users did, more effort is required to type each character, and there is a limit on the number of characters that may be sent.

In Mandarin Chinese, numbers that sound similar to words are used in place of those words. For example, the numbers 520 in Chinese (wu er ling) sound like the words for "I love you" (wo ai ni). The sequence 748 (qi si ba) sounds like the curse "go to hell" (qu si ba).

Predictive text software, which attempts to guess words (Tegic's T9 as well as iTAP) or letters (Eatoni's LetterWise), reduces the labour of time-consuming input. This makes abbreviations not only less necessary, but slower to type than regular words that are in the software's dictionary; however, it does make the messages longer, often requiring the text message to be sent in multiple parts and, therefore, costing more to send.

The use of text messaging has changed the way that people talk and write essays, some[48] believing it to be harmful. In November 2006, New Zealand Qualifications Authority approved the move that allowed students of secondary schools to use mobile phone text language in the end-of-the-year-exam papers.[49] Highly publicized reports, beginning in 2002, of the use of text language in school assignments caused some to become concerned that the quality of written communication is on the decline,[19] and other reports claim that teachers and professors are beginning to have a hard time controlling the problem.[19] However, the notion that text language is widespread or harmful is refuted by research from linguistic experts.[50]

An article in The New Yorker explores how text messaging has anglicized some of the world's languages. The use of diacritic marks is dropped in languages such as French, as well as symbols in Ethiopian languages. In his book, Txtng: the Gr8 Db8, David Crystal says that texters in all eleven languages use "lol", "u", "brb", and "gr8", all English-based shorthands. The use of pictograms and logograms in texts are present in every language. They shorten words by using symbols to represent the word or symbols whose name sounds like a syllable of the word such as in 2day or b4. This is commonly used in other languages as well. Crystal gives some examples in several languages such as Italian sei, "six", is used for sei, "you are". Example: dv 6 = dove sei ("where are you") and French sept "seven" = cassette ("casette"). There is also the use of numeral sequences, substituting for several syllables of a word and creating whole phrases using numerals. For example, in French, a12c4 can be said as à un de ces quatres, "see you around" (literally: "to one of these four [days]"). An example of using symbols in texting and borrowing from English is the use of @. Whenever it is used in texting, its intended use is with the English pronunciation. Crystal gives the example of the Welsh use of @ in @F, pronounced ataf, meaning "to me". In character-based languages such as Chinese and Japanese, numbers are assigned syllables based on the shortened form of the pronunciation of the number, sometimes the English pronunciation of the number. In this way, numbers alone can be used to communicate whole passages, such as in Chinese, "8807701314520" can be literally translated as "Hug hug you, kiss kiss you, whole life, whole life I love you." English influences worldwide texting in variation but still in combination with the individual properties of languages.[51] American popular culture is also recognized in shorthand. For example, Homer Simpson translates into: ~(_8^(|).[52] Crystal also suggests that texting has led to more creativity in the English language, giving people opportunities to create their own slang, emoticons, abbreviations, acronyms, etc. The feeling of individualism and freedom excites people, making texting increasingly more popular and a more efficient way to communicate.[53]

Recent research by Rosen et al. (2009)[54] found that those young adults who used more language-based textisms (shortcuts such as LOL, 2nite, etc.) in daily writing produced worse formal writing than those young adults who used fewer linguistic textisms in daily writing. However, the exact opposite was true for informal writing. This suggests that perhaps the act of using textisms to shorten communication words leads young adults to produce more informal writing, which may then help them to be better "informal" writers.

Texting while driving

File:Cell phone use while driving.jpg

A driver with attention divided between a mobile phone and the road ahead

Main article: Texting while driving

Texting while driving leads to increased distraction behind the wheel. In 2006, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group conducted a survey with more than 900 teens from over 26 high schools nationwide. The results showed that 87% of students found texting to be "very" or "extremely" distracting.[55] Then later on, a study by AAA discovered that 46% of teens admitted to being distracted behind the wheel due to texting. One example of distraction behind the wheel is the 2008 Chatsworth train collision, which killed 25 passengers. Upon closer investigation, it became known that the engineer of that train had sent 45 text messages while operating.

A 2009 experiment with Car and Driver editor Eddie Alterman that took place at a deserted air strip showed that texting while driving had a bigger negative impact on driver safety than being drunk. While being legally drunk added four feet to Alterman's stopping distance while going 70 mph, reading an e-mail added 36 feet, and sending a text added 70 feet.[56]

In 2009, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute released the results of an 18-month study that involved placing cameras inside the cabs of more than 100 long-haul trucks, which recorded the drivers over a combined driving distance of three million miles. The study concluded that when the drivers were texting, their risk of crashing was 23 times greater than when not texting.[57]


Main article: Sexting

Sexting is slang for the act of sending sexually explicit or suggestive content between mobile devices using SMS.[58] A genre of texting, it contains either text, images, or video that is intended to be sexually arousing.

A portmanteau of sex and texting, sexting was reported as early as 2005 in The Sunday Telegraph Magazine,[59] constituting a trend in the creative use of SMS to excite another with alluring messages throughout the day.[60]

Although sexting often takes place consensually between two people, it can also occur against the wishes of a person who is the subject of the content.[58] A number of instances have been reported in which the recipients of sexting have shared the content of the messages with others, with less intimate intentions, such as to impress their friends or embarrass their sender. Celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens, and Adrienne Bailon have been victims of such abuses of sexting.[61]

A 2008 survey by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and[62] suggested a trend of sexting and other seductive online content being readily shared between teens. One in five teen girls surveyed (22 percent)—and 11 percent of teen girls aged 13–16 years old—say they have electronically sent, or posted online, nude or semi-nude images of themselves. One-third (33 percent) of teen boys and one-quarter (25 percent) of teen girls say they were shown private nude or semi-nude images. According to the survey, sexually suggestive messages (text, e-mail, and instant messaging) were even more common than images, with 39 percent of teens having sent or posted such messages, and half of teens (50 percent) having received them.

Sexting becomes a legal issue when teens (under 18) are involved, because any nude photos they may send of themselves would put the recipients in possession of child pornography.[63]

In schools


Two girls text during class at school

Text messaging has had an impact on students academically, by creating an easier way to cheat on exams. In December 2002, a dozen students were caught cheating on an accounting exam through the use of text messages on their mobile phones.[64] In December 2002, Hitotsubashi University in Japan failed 26 students for receiving e-mailed exam answers on their mobile phones.[65]

The number of students caught using mobile phones to cheat on exams has increased significantly in recent years. According to Okada (2005), most Japanese mobile phones can send and receive long text messages of between 250 and 3000 characters with graphics, video, audio, and Web links.[66] In England, 287 school and college students were excluded from exams in 2004 for using mobile phones during exams.[67] Some teachers and professors claim that advanced texting features can lead to students cheating on exams.[68]


Spreading rumors and gossip by text is also an issue of great concern. Text "bullying" of this sort can cause distress and damage reputations. Harding and Rosenberg (2005) argue that the urge to forward text messages seems difficult to resist, describing text messages as "loaded weapons".[69]

A survey conducted among mobile professionals in Europe and North America demonstrated that 94% of those surveyed believed bullying by SMS to be a reality. The survey was conducted via SMS among a pan-European and North American mobile professional audience, and 412 responded to the survey questions. The survey measured mobile professionals' opinions on bullying by SMS as well as their opinion on who should provide the protection against this threat.[70]

Influence on perceptions of the student

When a student sends an email that contains phonetic abbreviations and acronyms that are common in text messaging (e.g., "gr8" instead of "great"), it can influence how that student is subsequently evaluated. In a study by Lewandowski and Harrington (2006), participants read a student's email sent to a professor that either contained text-messaging abbreviations (gr8, How R U?) or parallel text in standard English (great, How are you?), and then provided impressions of the sender.[71] Students who used abbreviations in their email were perceived as having a less favorable personality and as putting forth less effort on an essay they submitted along with the email. Specifically, abbreviation users were seen as less intelligent, responsible, motivated, studious, dependable, and hard-working. These findings suggest that the nature of a student's email communication can influence how others perceive the student and their work.

Law and crime

Not only has text messaging had an impact in schools, but also on police forces around the world. A British company developed, in June 2003, a program called Fortress SMS for Symbian phones. This program used 128 bit AES encryption to protect SMS messages.[72] Police have also retrieved deleted messages to incriminate cult member Sara Svensson after confessing to murdering the wife of pastor Helge Fossmo and having shot his lover's husband Daniel Linde in Knutby, Sweden. They traced the messages, because she said she had acted anonymously on text forwards received in her phone.[73]

Police in Tilburg, Netherlands, started an SMS alert program, in which they would send a message to ask citizens to be vigilant when a burglar was on the loose or a child was missing in their neighborhood. Several thieves have been caught and children found using the SMS Alerts. The service has been expanding rapidly to other cities.[74]

A Malaysian–Australian company has released its Crypto for Criminals multi-layer SMS security program.[75]

Boston police are now turning to text messaging to help stop crime. The Boston Police Department has established a program in which one can text in a crime tip anonymously to help stop crimes.[76]

A Malaysian court had ruled that it is legal to divorce through the use of text messaging, as long as one is clear and unequivocal.[77]

Social unrest

Texting has been used on a number of occasions with the result of the gathering of large aggressive crowds. SMS messaging drew a crowd to Cronulla Beach in Sydney resulting in the 2005 Cronulla riots. Not only were text messages circulating in the Sydney area, but in other states as well (Daily Telegraph). The volume of such text messages and e-mails also increased in the wake of the riot.[78] The crowd of 5000 at stages became violent, attacking certain ethnic groups. Sutherland Shire Mayor directly blamed heavily circulated SMS messages for the unrest.[79] NSW police considered whether people could be charged over the texting.[80] Retaliatory attacks also used SMS.[81]

The Narre Warren Incident, when a group of 500 party goers attended a party at Narre Warren in Melbourne, Australia, and rioted in January 2008, also was a response of communication being spread by SMS and Myspace.[82] Following the incident, the Police Commissioner wrote an open letter asking young people to be aware of the power of SMS and the Internet.[83] In Hong Kong, government officials find that text messaging helps socially because they can send multiple texts to the community. Officials say it is an easy way of contacting community or individuals for meetings or events.[84]

Texting was used to coordinate gatherings during the 2009 Iranian election protests.

Texting in politics

Text messaging has had a major impact on the political world. American campaigns find that text messaging is a much easier, cheaper way of getting to the voters than the door-to-door approach.[85] Mexico's president-elect Felipe Calderón launched millions of text messages in the days immediately preceding his narrow win over Andres Manuel Lopez Obradór.[86] In January 2001, Joseph Estrada was forced to resign from the post of president of the Philippines. The popular campaign against him was widely reported to have been co-ordinated with SMS chain letters.[86] A massive texting campaign was credited with boosting youth turnout in Spain's 2004 parliamentary elections.[86] In 2008, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his Chief of Staff at the time became entangled in a sex scandal stemming from the exchange of over 14,000 text messages that eventually led to his forced resignation, conviction of perjury, and other charges.[15]

Text messaging has been used to turn down other political leaders. During the 2004 U.S. Democratic and Republican National Conventions, protesters used an SMS-based organizing tool called TXTmob to get to opponents.[87] In the last day before the 2004 presidential elections in Romania, a message against Adrian Năstase was largely circulated, thus breaking the laws that prohibited campaigning that day.

Text messaging has helped politics by promoting campaigns.

Furthermore, on January 20, 2001, President Joseph Estrada of the Philippines became the first head of state in history to lose power to a smart mob.[88] More than one million Manila residents assembled at the site of the 1986 People Power peaceful demonstrations that has toppled the Marcos regime. These people have organized themselves and coordinated their actions through text messaging. They were able to bring down a government without having to use any weapons or violence. Through text messaging, their plans and ideas were communicated to others and successfully implemented. Also, this move encouraged the military to withdraw their support from the regime, and as a result, the Estrada government fell.[88] People were able to converge and unite with the use of their cell phones. "The rapid assembly of the anti-Estrada crowd was a hallmark of early smart mob technology, and the millions of text messages exchanged by the demonstrators in 2001 was, by all accounts, a key to the crowds esprit de corps."[88]

Medical concerns

Main article: Blackberry thumb

The excessive use of the thumb for pressing keys on mobile devices has led to a high rate of a form of repetitive strain injury termed "Blackberry thumb". (Although this refers to strain developed on older Blackberry devices, which had a scroll wheel on the side of the phone.)

An inflammation of the tendons in the thumb caused by constant text-messaging is also called text-messager's thumb, or texting tenosynovitis.[89]

Texting has also been linked as a secondary source in numerous traffic collisions, in which police investigations of mobile phone records have found that many drivers have lost control of their cars while attempting to send or retrieve a text message. Increasing cases of Internet addiction are now also being linked to text messaging, as mobile phones are now more likely to have e-mail and Web capabilities to complement the ability to text.

Texting etiquette

America's twentieth-century etiquette guru, Emily Post, still has lessons regarding people living in the twenty-first century. At the website of The Emily Post Institute, the topic of texting has spurred several articles with the "do's and dont's" regarding the new form of communication. One example from the site is: "Keep your message brief. No one wants to have an entire conversation with you by texting when you could just call him or her instead."[90] Another example is: "Don't use all Caps. Typing a text message in all capital letters will appear as though you are shouting at the recipient, and should be avoided."

There are also generational differences in etiquette as noted in Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman's The M-Factor: How the Millennial Generation Is Rocking the Workplace. Younger Americans often do not consider it rude to answer their cell or begin texting in the middle of a face-to-face conversation with someone else, while older people, less used to the behavior and the accompanying lack of eye contact or attention, find this to be disruptive and ill-mannered.

With regard to texting in the workplace, Plantronics studied how we communicate at work and found that 58% of US knowledge workers have increased the use of text messaging for work in the past five years. The same study found that 33% of knowledge workers felt text messaging was critical or very important to success and productivity at work.[91]


Text message spam

Further information: Mobile phone spam

In 2002, an increasing trend towards spamming mobile phone users through SMS prompted cellular-service carriers to take steps against the practice, before it became a widespread problem. No major spamming incidents involving SMS had been reported as of March 2007Template:Dated maintenance category, but the existence of mobile phone spam[92] has been noted by industry watchdogs including Consumer Reports magazine and the Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN). In 2005, UCAN brought a case against Sprint for spamming its customers and charging $0.10 per text message.[93] The case was settled in 2006 with Sprint agreeing not to send customers Sprint advertisements via SMS.[94]

SMS expert Acision (foremerly LogicaCMG Telecoms) reported a new type of SMS malice at the end of 2006, noting the first instances of SMiShing (a cousin to e-mail phishing scams). In SMiShing, users receive SMS messages posing to be from a company, enticing users to phone premium-rate numbers or reply with personal information.

Pricing concerns

Concerns have been voiced[95] over the excessive cost of off-plan text messaging in the United States. AT&T, along with most other service providers, charges texters 20 cents per message if they do not have a messaging plan or if they have exceeded their allotted number of texts. Given that an SMS message is at most 160 bytes in size, this cost scales to a cost of $1,310[95] per megabyte sent via text message. This is in sharp contrast with the price of unlimited data plans offered by the same carriers, which allow the transmission of hundreds of megabytes of data for monthly prices of about $15 to $45 in addition to a voice plan. As a comparison, a one-minute phone call uses up the same amount of network capacity as 600 text messages,[96] meaning that if the same cost-per-traffic formula were applied to phone calls, cell phone calls would cost $120 per minute. With service providers gaining more customers and expanding their capacity, their overhead costs should be decreasing, not increasing.

Although major cellphone providers deny any collusion, fees for out-of-package text messages have increased, doubling from 10 to 20 cents in the United States between 2007 and 2008 alone.[97] On July 16, 2009, Senate hearings were held to look into any breach of the Sherman Antitrust Act.[98]

Increasing competition

While text messaging is still a growing market, traditional SMS are becoming increasingly challenged by alternative messaging services which are available on smartphones with data connections. These services are much cheaper and offer more functionality like exchanging of multimedia content (e.g. photos, videos or audio notes) and group messaging. Especially in western countries some of these services attract more and more users.[99]

Security concerns

Consumer SMS should not be used for confidential communication. The contents of common SMS messages are known to the network operator's systems and personnel. Therefore, consumer SMS is not an appropriate technology for secure communications.[100]

To address this issue, many companies use an SMS gateway provider based on SS7 connectivity to route the messages. The advantage of this international termination model is the ability to route data directly through SS7, which gives the provider visibility of the complete path of the SMS. This means SMS messages can be sent directly to and from recipients without having to go through the SMS-C of other mobile operators. This approach reduces the number of mobile operators that handle the message; however, it should not be considered as an end-to-end secure communication, as the content of the message is exposed to the SMS gateway provider.

Failure rates without backward notification can be high between carriers (T-Mobile to Verizon is notorious in the US). International texting can be extremlely unreliable depending on the country of origin, destination and respective carriers.

Consumer SMS Business SMS
Unreliable Timely delivery
Immeasurable Measurable via delivery notifications
Subject to high levels of message loss and delay No message loss, full transparency and security through end-to-end delivery
Insecure transmission routes Viable for all types of mobile interaction: B2B, B2C, C2B, C2C
Viable for person-to-person communications only

Text messaging in popular culture

Records and competition

The Guinness Book of World Records has a world record for text messaging, currently held by Sonja Kristiansen of Norway. Ms. Kristiansen keyed in the official text message, as established by Guinness, in 37.28 seconds.[101] The message is, "The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality, they seldom attack a human."[101] In 2005, the record was held by a 24-year-old Scottish man, Craig Crosbie, who completed the same message in 48 seconds, beating the previous time by 19 seconds.[102]

The Book of Alternative Records lists Chris Young of Salem, Oregon, as the world-record holder for the fastest 160-character text message where the contents of the message are not provided ahead of time. His record of 62.3 seconds was set on May 23, 2007.[103]

Elliot Nicholls of Dunedin, New Zealand, currently holds the world record for the fastest blindfolded text messaging. A record of a 160-letter text in 45 seconds while blindfolded was set on 17 November 2007, beating the old record of 1 minute 26 seconds set by an Italian in September 2006.[104]

Ohio native Andrew Acklin is credited with the world record for most text messages sent or received in a single month, with 200,052. His accomplishments were first in the World Records Academy and later followed up by Ripley's Believe It Or Not 2010: Seeing Is Believing. He has been acknowledged by The Universal Records Database for the most text messages in a single month.[105]

In January 2010, LG Electronics sponsored an international competition, the LG Mobile World Cup, to determine the fastest pair of texters. The winners were a team from South Korea, Ha Mok-min and Bae Yeong-ho.[106]

On April 6, 2011, SKH Apps released an iPhone app, iTextFast, to allow consumers to test their texting speed and practice the paragraph used by Guinness Book of World Records. The current best time listed on Game Center for that paragraph is 34.65 seconds.[107]

Morse code

A few competitions have been held between expert Morse code operators and expert SMS users.[108] Several mobile phones have Morse code ring tones and alert messages. For example, many Nokia mobile phones have an option to beep "S M S" in Morse code when it receives a short message. Some of these phones could also play the Nokia slogan "Connecting people" in Morse code as a message tone.[109] There are third-party applications available for some mobile phones that allow Morse input for short messages.[110][111][112]

See also

  • Chat language
  • Extended Messaging Service
  • Instant messaging
  • List of mobile text entry technologies
  • LOL
  • MMS
  • Mobile dial code
  • Operator messaging
  • SMS
  • SMS language
  • Telegram
  • Tironian notes, scribal abbreviations and ligatures: Roman and medieval abbreviations used to save space on manuscripts and epigraphs


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