Tip your hat to the SMS – it’s now a “killer app”

Author: Yifat Kafkafi | September 7, 2015

The SMS is being described as a “killer app”? Seriously, who saw that coming? But as unexpected as that might be, the humble SMS – often regarded as an outdated technology and increasingly irrelevant in the age of WhatsApp and WeChat – has been demanding our respect back.

Case in point? The 2016 United States presidential race. Campaigns are already in full swing as candidates work to rally supporters to their cause ahead of next year’s elections. But amidst the flood of emails, Twitter messages, Facebook posts, Instagram pictures and TV ads targeted at voters and donors, according to the NY Times’ Nick Corasaniti, it turns out SMS text messages are the secret weapon that cut through the clutter:

“The killer app for the 2016 presidential campaign is not an app at all. It is not even new. Texting – that 1990s-vintage technology – has suddenly become a go-to vehicle for presidential campaigns when they need to get a message out as widely and quickly as possible, and with confidence that it will be read.”

It’s true that many of us today communicate digitally with our friends and family almost exclusively on social media, email and messaging apps. But conversely, it’s text messages that have become the medium via which where we receive useful and convenient alerts such as traffic and weather updates, Uber pickups, restaurant reservations and hair-salon appointment reminders.

The result is that the text message is almost guaranteed to be read.

As Joe Rospars, Chief Executive of Blue State Digital, explained to the New York Times,

“People who will walk around with like 20,000 unread emails will still want to clear the notification circle on the text messages.”

Another unique advantage to the SMS is its global ubiquity. There are 7.4 billion mobile devices in the world and SMS works on virtually all of them. So while Whatsapp’s numbers may be impressive at 800 million active monthly users, that doesn’t even come close in terms of coverage, and it still requires both parties to have downloaded the app in advance for the message to reach its target.

SMS is especially relevant in developing markets where smartphone penetration rates and mobile data usage are lower.

Alicia Levine gives numerous examples of organizations that are utilizing SMS in ways that improve livelihoods and have a real impact on society. Take, for example, the partnership between Telerivet and Kiva which enables microfinance borrowers in countries such as Kenya and Uganda to communicate directly (and in real time) with their local lenders through a new Kiva product called Kiva Zip. Telerivet’s platform allows Kiva to collect application materials from borrowers, send payment reminders, and facilitate other communication – and all via SMS to local numbers. Ongoing and local communication is a key factor in getting borrowers to make payments on time – a win-win situation for both borrowers and lenders.

“All I’m asking… is for a little respect” – Aretha may have wanted it, but in the case of the SMS, perhaps the time has come to give it.

Reblogged from: Amdocs Blog

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