BRB? Texting Sees First-Ever Decline in U.S.

Text messaging in the U.S. is on the decline.

Man using his smart phone
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The U.S. mobile market is going strong, but with fewer LOLs and Srslys flying between phones.

Text messaging has posted its first-ever decline in the U.S. The data come from Chetan Sharma Consulting, a Washington-based technology consulting firm, which says in its third-quarter mobile market report that last quarter, the number of messages and messaging revenue both fell. The average number of texts per user also fell, from 696 per month to 678.

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The U.S. is, in fact, behind the curve in this respect. Texting has already been on the decline in other countries for a variety of reasons, says firm president Chetan Sharma.

"Other countries had more price-sensitive demographics," he says in an email to U.S. News, pointing to the Philippines and China. Some European countries like the Netherlands and Spain have seen similar declines in texting as well, he says, in those cases largely driven by failing economies.

In the U.S., the decline is due in part to messaging services like Apple's iMessage, Twitter, and Facebook, he says, which have provided users with alternatives to texting.

Still, it's a good time to be in the mobile business. Smartphones accounted for over 75 percent of all devices sold in the U.S. last quarter. And there is "plenty of growth left in the marketplace," as the report points out, with all of the smartphones concentrated in 30 percent of households.

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Indeed, some households may have a particularly high concentration—six percent of households have 15 or more Internet-connected devices (including computers and tablets).

There's also plenty of room for growth worldwide. Of the 10 billion Internet-connected devices in the world, 31 percent are phones and an additional 10 percent are smartphones.

Even if messaging continues to decline, there are other ways for mobile companies to make money. Smartphones, after all, are designed for much more than texting. Mobile revenues from data—what you use when you stream a video or music on your smartphone—are expected to hit $80 billion in the U.S. this year, making up 42 percent of all industry revenues. Growth in data revenues are up 17 percent year-over-year.

The report also gives some insight into who is reaping these benefits. Two companies dominate the mobile market in the U.S. Leading the way is Verizon, with 34 percent of the market share of all mobile carriers, followed by AT&T (32 percent). The next-closest company is Sprint, with 17 percent of the market share.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at dkurtzleben@usnews.com.