Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But could text messaging really be considered beautiful? You might argue that it depends on the messages you get! That’s a valid approach, but I recently found a description of mobile messaging that made me believe it is indeed beautiful, so I thought I’d share it with you.
It happened on slide 48 out of 196 in a presentation by Mary Meeker. She’s a worldwide recognised expert on technology, business, and the Internet. Every year she gives a State of the Internet report which includes technology trends. And this year she entitled one of the slides “Communicating via Mobile Messaging = A Beautiful Thing”.
The twelve items that follow are all from her list of reasons why, but the explanations are mine.
“Asynchronous yet Instant”
The word asynchronous might be hard to say, but it only means things don’t happen at the same time. You can send a message at 10 a.m. to your mate asking where they want to meet for dinner, and they can respond at 4 p.m. That’s in contrast to a voice call where both people have to be on and communicating at the same time (that’s called synchronous communication).
“Expressive yet Fast”
Someone wishes you a happy birthday via text? You can reply with a smiley emoticon. That says it all really. And you only needed to click a button to show your thanks. It doesn’t get much faster than that. Unless you are like me and spend a lot of time looking for just the right emoticon from the pages of options on my iPhone. Come to think of it, a simple “ty” for thank you would do just as well.
“Engaging yet User Controlled”
This is probably one of the best aspects of SMS messaging. You can exchange messages and engage in conversation, but the user has control over when, how, or if they answer. Since the user still has the power over the conversation, it allows businesses and organisations to communicate in a very personal way without making the user feel forced or pressured (if done right).
“Casual yet Professional”
Everyone uses text messaging these days. You can text your Mom, your mobile company or bank for balance alerts, even your estate agent or recruiter. It’s a ubiquitous (I just love that word and feel the need to insert it from time to time. It’s fun to say. Try it.) form of communication. You can find ways to use it for interacting with friends as well as businesses.
“Easy yet Productive”
If I call my Mom to see if she needs something from the grocery store, I undoubtedly end up in a fifteen minute conversation having nothing to do with items from the store. But I can text her “Do you need anything from the store?” and I can get back a “No” or a list of items in a minute. Much easier for both of us (though she’s still slightly intimidated by texting) and very productive. It can work that way with anything where you need to get an answer now in order to keep working or doing something. It’s easy to ask, and hopefully easy to get the answer and move on.
“Personal yet Mainstream”
We all know that messaging can be personal. And I’m not sure if Ms. Meeker intended to use “mainstream” in the sense of everybody’s doing it, or in the urban dictionary sense of “trendy”. Either way though, it works. Messaging this way can be very personal, yet everyone is doing it. And it’s even possible to send messages to everyone that are still personal by customising with names, dates, and interests.
“Mobile yet Distributed”
Every mobile phone available today can send and receive text messages. I get my messages on all my mobile devices. When I text my Dad, he receives the messages on his iPhone and his desktop computer. The network distributes the messages according to how the user sets it up. So I can reach my Dad whether he’s out and about or at his desktop playing solitaire (he’s retired so he has time!).
“Instant yet Secure”
SMS messaging has security built into it. While some hackers have found ways to get through, generally speaking the messages are secure. And they arrive almost instantaneously, within a few seconds at most when using the Tier 1 routes. Some messaging in apps offer more security, but that depends on how the developers designed it.
“Real-Time yet Replayable”
You can have an argument with your significant other in real-time, then go back and reread the conversation over and over. Not the happiest example for sure, but I’ve seen it happen. Another example is my daughter texting me about setting up another piano lesson time and my being able to reply in real-time that it was a good time. A couple weeks later we’d both forgotten the time, but the message was still there. After a bit of scrolling through our conversations since, we found it on her phone. Much easier than sifting through lots of emails, or remembering a phone call from weeks ago.
“Current yet Evergreen”
Technology is so filled with trends, start-ups, and failures it’s hard to rely on any one thing to be around later when you need it. But SMS messaging has been around for over two decades. It has only become more relevant and “current” in recent years. That certainly qualifies it to be called evergreen. SMS messages sent five years ago, will probably be the same messages sent five years from now in terms of format and standards (with some minor modifications or improvements).
“Accessible yet Global”
Access to mobile phones is available virtually everywhere in the world. The types and costs of phones vary, as well as coverage but if you want a mobile you can get one. In fact, many of the developing countries don’t have the infrastructure for traditional phones or Internet, but they can access mobile networks. And those people can reach out and message other people across the world. I’d say it’s accessible and global rather than “yet”.
“Simple yet 24x7”
Mobile messaging systems have one of the easiest interfaces to use. You simply type what you want and click send. You see your message on the screen and then you’ll see the reply right under it. Yet it only takes your mobile, smartwatch, or other connected devices to send messages at any time of day. If you want to call for a repair on your car at 2 a.m., you’re likely to get a voicemail, or perhaps a call centre. If you’re lucky they will contact a repairman who then calls you. It’s not a simple process and in stark contrast to sending a message with your location and problem. Then receiving a confirmation that the tow truck is on the way, even if it is 2 a.m.
These 12 items highlight all that’s wonderful about mobile messaging. And even though the term “mobile messaging” encompasses more than just SMS, I think all of these apply perfectly well to text messages too. What do you think?