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October 30, 2008

y do Brits txt so much?

LONDON, UK – A new report from the Mobile Data Association this week found that the amount of text and picture messages sent every day in the UK continues to grow. The number of SMS and MMS messages sent in the third quarter shot up by 20 per cent compared to the same period last year, with nearly 1.5million being sent every single day.

It would appear that SMS and our blind affection for this simplest of communication methods is a peculiarly British phenomenon. Granted, SMS is still growing the world over, but in Asia it’s rapidly being caught up by mobile email and instant messaging. Is it part cultural, part technical, or is there more to it than that?

Steve Reynolds, Chairman of the Mobile Data Association, was keen to highlight the state of mobile technology, but side-stepped the reality that text messaging is not being usurped as a tool in favour of other more advanced services:

“New mobile phones with easy to use software and creative tariffs from the mobile networks are encouraging people of all ages to use more of their functionality – from music, video and pictures to email communications and now GPS and mapping on the move…The mobile phone has evolved far beyond simple voice and text messaging. It sits at the centre of our lives at home and at work.”

Yes, the phone has evolved beyond this, but are users making use of these advanced features? Of course we are, although the proportions in the UK and globally are obviously skewed in favour of simpler functions. There’s some odd shroud of mystery and pessimism that surrounds newer and more sophisticated methods of mobile communication, don’t you think. Or is it just me? Plus, there’s the fact that unless a new service is easier than the alternatives it’s always going to be tough for it to gain traction.

I’ve floated the idea before that we just don’t like our accents and this could be the key to out insatiable taste for texting – is it modesty that keeps our personalities hidden behind short sentences with missing vowels, or the modern equivalent of the stiff upper lip?

Perhaps it’s for the same reason that we refuse to use video messaging on mobiles – just as seeing low-resolution images of your friend moving his mouth to the words you’d hear anyway isn’t useful, most Brits clearly don’t find the possibilities of longer messages or rich text and hyperlinks necessary.

We’re surely not alone in this respect – the global success of micro-blogging platform Twitter, which lets users send messages of no more than 140 characters, replicates the concise nature of SMS, and indeed until earlier this year was a free way of texting your followers. But why do we cling to it still when there’s so many options now? The MDA can’t think why, but whatever your nationality and location, let’s hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments below.

Photo by Pixel Addict