17th - Jun - 2016

What’s All the Fuss Over Facebook Messenger Supporting SMS

This week Facebook announced Android users can now send and receive SMS messages through Facebook Messenger. For all you iPhone users, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the big deal?” since by default iOS integrates SMS and iMessages in the same thread in its default messaging application. The big deal is Facebook Messenger wants to be the de facto messaging application on Android devices and by integrating SMS it provides the convenience and ease of use that just may be the ticket to sway Android users to set Messenger as the default messaging application. By supporting SMS within Messenger, Android users no longer need to exit out of the app to check their SMS messages—instead they have one app that can send and receive text messages (SMS) along with Messenger messages.

If this feature sounds familiar, Messenger supported SMS back in 2012, but it was removed the following year. So why relaunch this feature now?

In recent months there have been articles stating over-the-top message volumes will surpass SMS and even hints to the “death of SMS”. While adoption and usage of OTT messaging applications (Messenger, WeChat etc.) continue to grow, the main stumbling block for most OTT apps is the “app”; in order to exchange messages both sender and receiver have to have the app installed and activated, meaning both parties have to take steps in order to start exchanging messages. Minimally the app has to be downloaded, installed and usually requires creating an account or login before it can be used. To understand just how prevalent Messenger is, the following chart from Nielsen shows the top U.S. smartphone apps of 2015:

Bar graph showing the top Smartphone apps of 2015

Contrasting Messenger’s unique users to the number of smartphone owners in the U.S. as reported in May 2015 by comScore as 189.7 million, and you can easily see that there are many smartphone owners not using Messenger. Furthermore, looking at the projected volume of SMS volume forecasted by Portio Research below clearly demonstrates SMS staying power and why Facebook has integrated SMS into Messenger.

Another factor is how OTT and SMS are used. Though both are typically used for P2P communications between friends and family, OTT is primarily used for personal communications where SMS is used for both personal and business communications, e.g. notices from your bank or doctor’s office. Predictions in the coming years show overall SMS volume declining, yet on closer inspection the predicted volume for business communications (A2P) SMS, is projected to grow as seen in this chart from Portio Research:

Bar graph showing the trend in SMS traffic

What’s important to point out is Facebook is not “eating SMS”, as one article claims. The reality is Facebook has realized the power of SMS as a communication channel. Facebook integrating SMS into Messenger is more akin to, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” The beauty of SMS is it is native, no app is required and once your mobile phone is active, you can begin sending and receiving text messages.

Bar graph showing the increase in SMS traffic

Though the volume of SMS year over year may not be growing at the rate it was in previous years, the number of SMS messages sent and received is in the trillions and is projected to be in excess of 6 trillion in 2018. Due to this integration, Facebook is making it convenient for people to use and adopt Messenger for both OTT and SMS, making it a one-stop interface for IM and text messages.

Originally posted on mblox.com

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