Chat apps now more popular than SMS worldwide

According to new data, 19 billion chat messages were sent each day last year, compared to 17.6 billion SMS messages.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger

A handful of popular chat applications have already found a way to outpace SMS, according to new data.

Research firm Informa announced today that six of the most popular mobile chat applications, including WhatsApp, BlackBerry Messenger, Viber, Nimbuzz, Apple's iMessage, and KakaoTalk, averaged nearly 19 billion messages sent and received worldwide each day in 2012. The company estimates that 17.6 billion SMS messages were sent each day, as well.

According to GigaOm, which earlier reported on Informa's data, which was commissioned by the Financial Times, nearly 50 billion messages will be sent next year over mobile applications, compared to 21 billion text messages.

Although fewer text messages will blunt data costs on carriers, the apps themselves aren't necessarily helping them out on the revenue front, either. According to a study released Monday by research firm Ovum, social-messaging apps will cost global mobile operators $32.6 billion of lost revenue in 2013, and that figure will jump to over $86 billion in 2020.

SMS messaging has been an easy way for carriers to generate some additional revenue. However, with many plans now featuring unlimited messaging, the incremental revenue gains are not as high. Couple that with more non-SMS messaging, and carriers are losing money in the process.