The very first text message was sent in December 1992yes, over a decade ago, when T.L.C. was at the top of the pop charts. SMS was launched commercially in 1995, and by 2002 over a billion text messages were being exchanged globally per day. By 2003, that figure had jumped to almost 17 billion. One reason mobile phone carriers continue to push text messaging is that they derive up to 20% of their annual revenues[*] from texting. Most carriers charge 10 cents per text message sent beyond what is included in the subscriber's plan. That's a good-sized chunk of change. Also consider that 94% of 16-24 year oldsa large part of their subscriber baseuse text messaging regularly.[*] Many of these individuals send on average 100 messages per month. According to statistics from the Mobile Data Association (MDA), U.K. mobile phone owners alone send over 55 million text messages on a typical day. In a nutshell, there's a whole lotta texting goin' on, and a whole lotta money changing hands.
[*] According to the Media Centre at www.text.it
And it's not showing any signs of slowing. Other services that deliver information via SMS are beginning to emerge. Yahoo!, for example, has a text-messaging service that allows its subscribers to receive stocks, weather, news, and sports information at predetermined times. For example, every day you can have your favorite five stocks pop up on your phone, or every morning at 8 a.m. have the day's forecast delivered. These types of services boggle the mind, and could never be accomplished with voice.
Getting your phone to read your mind
As texting becomes more popular, mobile-phone manufacturers are responding with more sophisticated handsets. Today, so-called smart phones, such as the palmOne Treo 600 (or 650) and the RIM Blackberry, have built-in keyboards to ease the typing hassle that other mobile-phone users experience when they have to painstakingly triple-tap their way to the letter they want on a standard phone keypad.
There are phones with various .avors of "predictive-typing" software, the most popular (and prevalent by far) seems to be the T9 software from Tegic Communications (www.t9.com). Tegic has nearly perfected the art of predictive typing. Predictive typing predicts what you're probably going to type; however, it's not always right. Based on the preceding word and the .rst few letters of the word you're working on, the phone's software will attempt to predict the current word and .nish it for you. For example, if I wanted to type I'm busy, call me later. In actuality I might only have to type I bu c m la. The phone would .ll in the blanks for me, depending on the level of the software's predictive- typing algorithm. This development allows for much faster and more accurate typing, and after typing a few paragraphs like this it becomes second nature as your phone seems to start reading your mind.
As of this writing, Tegic comes preinstalled on literally hundreds of mobile phone models. So, it may already be on your phone. Check the Web site to see if your phone manufacturer is listed and for some great tips on more efficient texting (www.t9.com).
The Blackberry, left, and the Treo 650, right, are two of the most popular smart phones.