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Has WhatsApp killed the SMS?

Last updated on: May 5, 2013 08:24 IST

Has WhatsApp killed the SMS?

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The rise of the messaging app spells doom for the good old Short Messaging Service.

WhatsApp might seem like it's been around for some time, given the high amount of users it sees. On last count, the developer was handling 20 billion messages per day. That number is likely to increase given the number of smartphones being sold each year.

However, WhatsApp actually shot to popularity as early as 2011 and has been the de facto messaging tool for many people.

Even in a country like India where everyone wouldn't be able to afford high speed Internet, WhatsApp has caught on like wildfire. It's quickly overtaking the regular means of SMSing. Here's why.


Photographs: whatsapp.com

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What is WhatsApp?

To understand the rise of WhatsApp (and other messaging apps), it's important to understand how it works.

Essentially, it sends messages through the Internet and incurs data costs. However, it creates a user name based on one's phone number. This allows the service to compare numbers already present in its database and adding them automatically as your contacts.

Users don't have to add each person individually -- as soon as someone installs the app and registers their number, they can start chatting right away.

WhatsApp also has the advantage of being able to attach images, video files and audio files. While this was possible with Flash messages and MMS earlier, the Internet provides a far better medium to quickly share media files.

It can also support chatting in groups, something which SMS cannot. The app also keeps you logged in at all times. This eliminates any problems with having to automatically log in through web browsers or needing some one's e-mail ID or profile added.

As long as both individuals have the app installed and registered, they can message each other right away.

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Photographs: whatsapp.com
Tags: SMS , MMS

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Advantages of Using WhatsApp

In terms of cost, WhatsApp isn't much more expensive than regular SMS. One can spend roughly Rs 200 a month on data charges -- there is no charge for the messages themselves. Data rate charges are thus the same, regardless of where the user may be located.

SMS charges usually vary depending on whether the number is local or located outside the city. While there are free SMS packs that can solve this problem, they have a limit of 100 messages per day.

On top of that, you won't be able to message outside the country without paying exorbitant costs.

WhatsApp bypasses both of those problems. You can exchange as many messages as you want with friends, no matter where they are located. This allows for easy communication between users in different countries.

In fact, this is what drove sales for BlackBerry phones among the general public. WhatsApp may lack the encryption inherent in BlackBerry Messenger, but it can be installed across a variety of platforms.

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Photographs: samsung.com
Tags: SMS , BlackBerry

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Popularity of WhatsApp in India

Whether it's Android, Symbian, iOS or Windows Phone OS, no one is left out of the equation. This especially applies in a country like India. In a new study by Cyber Media Research, mobile sales rose by 20.8 percent in 2012, with a total of 221.6 million units.

Smartphones may be seeing a rise in sales, with a 35.7 percent rise in 2012 for 15.2 million phones; it is still the regular mobiles that are dominating the market. Regular mobile sales rose to 206.4 million units last year. Nokia leads with a 21.8 percent market share. Samsung follows at 13.7 percent and Micromax has a 6.6 percent share.

Overall, the majority of users are still using Nokia's Symbian OS.

Despite being old and antiquated compared to Android (devices for which Samsung has a 43.1 percent share), Nokia Symbian devices are still the cheapest phones available.

WhatsApp's support for different platforms helps it propagate even among those with older devices. More specifically, for those who are interested in simply using WhatsApp, they can pick up the cheapest device possible and use it without any issues.

Another factor for the success of WhatsApp is its free nature.

While a good number of apps like SwiftKey bring tons of functionality, they do so at a price. The majority of them remain free and still enhance the platform. But it's the free apps that attract users the most.

The developer for WhatsApp has even indicated that it will remain free and won't feature any ads at all. Factors like these help users stay connected to the app at all times.

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Photographs: whatsapp.com

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The messaging revolution

In terms of older users, particularly senior citizens, the typical SMS would seem like the best way to go. This is quickly changing as the benefits of WhatsApp become more obvious. For those who want to keep in touch with their families, wherever they are and still save on phone bills, sending messages across the internet at a low cost remains the best way possible.

The success of WhatsApp has prompted many other alternatives such as Fring, Samsung ChatOn, eBuddy and Pinch that bring their own features. Even older applications like Facebook Messenger are significantly revamping their interfaces to better compete with the benefits that messaging apps bring. Even as the market share for smartphones increases around the world, no matter what the platform, WhatsApp will continue to expand further.

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Photographs: Rediff Archives
Tags: SMS , WhatsApp , Samsung

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