The people who create violent video games must be breathing a sigh of relief at the moment – text messaging is the new enemy. Increasingly the media has been publishing fluff pieces about the apparent danger that text messaging poses. With news that the train engineer at the centre of the crash in California last week was text messaging at the time of the accident, things are only getting worse for the technology.
Maybe it’s just the natural progression of things – become popular enough and you’ll undoubtedly gain enemies. Text messaging is more popular than ever, with over 75 billion messages sent in the US in the month of June alone. That’s an awful lot of messages! In fact, Nielsen Mobile estimates that more Americans send text messages than make phone calls. I would guess the numbers are similar here in Canada and elsewhere in the world.
Of course, there are no facts that prove text messaging is dangerous:
Though there are no official casualty statistics, there is much anecdotal evidence that the number of fatal accidents stemming from texting while driving, crossing the street or engaging in other activities is on the rise.
“The act of texting automatically removes 10 I.Q. points,” said Paul Saffo, a technology trend forecaster in Silicon Valley.
I am sure Saffo is completely qualified to make such a statement as a “trend forecaster” so let me make a few statements of my own. I would venture to say that you lose I.Q. points while using the good old fashioned voice functionality of your phone. You probably lose 10 I.Q. points while rocking out to music on your iPod. You undoubtedly lose I.Q. points while stirring your Frappuccino as you cross the street too.
My point is that text messaging is no different than any other distraction. You’ve always got to remember to pay attention to the task at hand.
Building a mobile application that works really well is hard. In general, I think we put up with sub-standard mobile applications simply because they offer convenience, not because they blow us away. The iPhone is definitely changing things but for the most part, I still cringe when I need to use most mobile apps. Especially ones that claim to work over text messaging. There’s only one SMS app that I really like – Facebook.
I think Facebook has absolutely nailed the text messaging experience.
Use it for a while, and you’ll realize that the SMS functionality of Facebook is so much better than everything else. Take Twitter, for instance. One of its original claims to fame was that it worked well over SMS. Except that compared with Facebook, it absolutely sucks.
Here are a few of the reasons why Facebook over text messaging rocks:
- You can do many different things. You can update your status by prefixing your message with the @ symbol, or write on someone’s wall by prefixing the message with “wall Name”. Similarly, you can send messages by prefixing with “msg Name”.
- Facebook will ask for clarification. If I send a message prefixed with “wall Kim” it will ask me which Kim I mean if it can’t figure it out automatically.
- Context! Let’s say someone sends me a Facebook message, which I have set to come to my phone. All I need to do is reply, and it will send a Facebook message back. Same goes for wall notifications. I don’t need to specify the “msg” or “wall” because Facebook understands the context.
- Taking that to the next level, Facebook over text messaging is “multithreaded”. By that I mean, there is more than one number. If I get two messages, they’ll come from different shortcodes, so that when I reply Facebook knows which one I am replying to.
The key difference between Facebook SMS and other applications, is that idea of a session. The way that my reply to a notification is not isolated – Facebook understands some of the context around it. It makes the whole experience so much better.
Another major plus with Facebook over text messaging is that it’s both fast and reliable…unlike Twitter. I’ve never had any problems with it – it just works.
If you don’t already make use of Facebook Mobile, I encourage you to give it a shot. You can learn more about the SMS features here.
Holidays are always a good time for interesting statistics. How many phone calls were made? How many packages delivered? Or perhaps more interesting to my generation, how many text messages were sent? According to AT&T, Valentine’s Day is the most popular holiday for text messaging. Evidently there’s a 33% spike in texting traffic! That’s a lot of text messages.
I wonder what people are sending? A simple “I love you” or something more complicated, like FTBOMH IWALU (which translates to “from the bottom of my heart I will always love you”). Gizmodo has a handy list of these crazy combinations if you’re so inclined. Seems like more trouble than it’s worth to be honest, especially with the T9 functionality that all phones have.
I thought New Year’s Eve was the most popular holiday for text messaging, but maybe “drewheyman” has the right explanation in his comment on the Gizmodo post:
sending ‘happy new years’ = 1 message per friend. send txts to sig other for the sex = as many messages as it takes.
What will you be texting tomorrow?!
Happy Valentine’s Day 🙂
This shouldn’t really be a surprise, but apparently text messaging on New Year’s Eve is a big deal for Canadians. According to Virgin Mobile, we send an average of 31.5 million text messages per day.
Canadians are expected to send a record-breaking 50 million text messages on the evening of Dec. 31, according to Virgin Mobile Canada.
Last year’s New Year’s Eve text message tally was around 25 million.
The article goes on to say that those of us aged 18-30 will send an average of four messages each. That seems like a really small number to me, but who knows. It is an average after all. I probably send that many an hour!
So happy new year, and happy texting!
Read: CBC News