Is the end near for text messages in mainland China?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 June, 2014, 4:06am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 June, 2014, 4:06am

The mobile phone text message may soon become a thing of past on the mainland, government figures suggest.

In the first five months of this year, mainland mobile users each sent an average of 39.8 texts per month, according to the latest statistics released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. That is a fall of 18.4 per cent compared with the same period last year.

The ministry said the decline in texts had been going on for some time thanks to the expansion of the internet and social media platforms such as WeChat and Weibo.

Texts generated less than 22 billion yuan (HK$27.6 billion) in revenue for mainland telecommunications companies in the first five months of the year, a 13 per cent fall compared with the same period last year. Mobile internet services brought in more than 100 billion yuan in revenue in the same period, a growth of nearly 50 per cent.

The first text sent using the short messaging service, or SMS, was received in 1992 on the mainland and towards the end of the decade the technology rapidly gained in popularity.

Jiang Yanhong, a mother of a three year-old-girl in Shenzhen, said she used to be a text addict. "Without SMS I probably wouldn't have dated my husband," she said.

Her husband sent her more than 1,000 love messages a month until Jiang became his girlfriend.

"Most have been deleted, but I still keep a few as precious memories," she said.

Jiang and her husband now rarely use SMS as they have shifted to WeChat, the internet-based mobile phone chat app.

"I'm getting lazy. If sharing a photo or voice message can be done with a few finger taps and for free, why bother typing a text message that still costs 0.1 yuan?" said Jiang.

Not everyone agrees that text messages are on the way out.

Bai Long, a car sales representative in Beijing, said he still preferred texting his clients when their new car arrived.

"SMS is more formal and reliable," he said. "Internet platforms are full of pointless messages, most of which can't be taken seriously."

The number of mainland mobile internet users increased by nearly 10 million to more than 850 million in May, according to the information technology ministry.