Message still the same for Generation Txt

22:08, May 19 2012
Sam Stapley
FAST FINGERED: In 2009, Sam Stapley was a texting champ but has now moved on to the new smartphone apps.

Text messaging is about to leave its teenage years behind, turning 20 in December.

It has helped organise countless nights on the town, started and ended relationships, and been used to hire and fire, but some Kiwis, such as Canterbury University student Sam Stapley, who grew up with the technology, are not quite as hooked on it as they once were.

Mr Stapley, who is also 19, came third in a national text-messaging competition run by Korean phone maker LG in 2009, but says cheaper mobile calls and smartphone technology mean he and his friends are texting less.

Where once he would have thought nothing of sending more than 2000 texts a month, that has dropped to about 400 since he bought an iPhone 18 months ago.

"I've seen the change since 2009. It is easier to call someone or use an app to communicate."

Text messaging is still enormously popular. In April, 691 million text messages travelled across Vodafone New Zealand's network alone, or about 250 a second. While that number was up 20 per cent on a year before, the rate of growth has slowed.

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Vodafone product manager Greg McAlister said social media applications, Twitter, Facebook, and instant messaging were all providing substitutes.

Castigated by some for encouraging bullying and by others for embarrassing oldies, texting may not be missed by everyone if it starts to wane. There were sniggers at the expense of British Prime Minister David Cameron last week when it was revealed he signed off messages to former News Corp executive Rebekah Brooks with "lol", thinking it meant "lots of love".

Mr Stapley is unsure if text messaging will ever disappear, but "it could get replaced".

Victoria University futurologist Ian Yeoman said, while text messaging might evolve with technological advances, it had already changed the way people interacted and was now "part of society".

That was not only because it was cheap and instant, but because it was an unintrusive form of communication that allowed people to feel more secure making contact with one another. Studies of romances in Britain suggested 40 per cent of those in Generation Y – born after 1985 – had been asked out by text message, he said.

Most studies found texting had neither "dumbed down" nor taken the emotion out of the way people communicate.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TXT

The first text message is believed to have been sent in December 1992, when Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old engineer, used a personal computer to say "Merry Christmas" to a friend on Vodafone's network in Britain.

Before that, people had to resort to sending messages such as "07734" via pager and standing on their heads, just to say "hello" to one another.

Text messaging was initially slow to catch on and didn't arrive in New Zealand until 1999.

Vodafone offered it for free for six months – possibly because it didn't at first have a way to charge pre-pay customers for it – yet still ran a competition with a prize of a private jet for a week to encourage people to try it out.

Telecom upped the ante in 2004 when it launched its "$10 text" plan, which was credited with turning around its fortunes in the mobile market.

Today more than 6.1 trillion text messages are sent around the world each year.

The rise of social networking and the smartphone means texting could become an ancient art but the pressure to be short and to the point continues. Text messages allow 160 characters – Twitter has tightened the screws with its cap of 140.

The Dominion Post