Americans can’t give up SMS – The New York Times

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My fellow Americans, we are strange.

The United States is one of the few large countries where SMS, a messaging technology that originated in the 1980s, is still a standard way to chat.

In many other countries, text messaging takes place via a smartphone app such as WhatsApp by Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook. WeChat is popular in China and Line in Japan. Those messages are transmitted over the internet, not over a phone line like SMS messages.

American SMS exceptionalism has its pros and cons. The biggest benefit of SMS is that it works on almost any phone and we are not confined to the world of corporate communications. The catch is that SMS has security flaws and it lacks the features of modern chat apps like notifying that your friends have read your messages or the ability to initiate a video call from a text message. copy.

The continued popularity of SMS in the United States is a reminder that the most versatile technologies not necessarily the best. It is also Different ways that Americans’ smartphone habits are unlike the rest of the world in ways that can be helpful but can also hold us back.

I know that many Americans use any text app on their phone and don’t think too much about it. Strong! But let me explain why we should reflect a little on this communication technology.

If you are an American using an iPhone, you can use iMessage. Those messages travel over the internet just like what you’d watch on Netflix – unless you’re texting someone with an Android phone, then your message is SMS. Clear as mud? And if you’re texting from an Android phone… it’s complicated, but you’re probably using a bit of SMS.

The bottom line is that the US uses SMS in bulk, which most other countries don’t.

Here’s an example: By 2020, something like a trillion personal and commercial messages will be transmitted in the United States by SMS or a companion imaging technology known as MMS. In Germany, the figure is 8 billion, according to an analysis by mobile research firm Strategy Analytics.

When Germans text, they tend to use WhatsApp, which is also a popular method of chatting in India, UK, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, France and many other countries.

What’s the big deal if American texting relies on phone lines? Well, SMS is an old and rickety technology awkwardly crammed into newer ones.

WeChat, WhatsApp, Signal and other modern messaging apps often allow users to see which of their friends are online, send high-definition images and animations, share physical location with the people they are with. Message and connect directly with apps in chat to send money or do other tasks.

About half of smartphone owners in the US have an iPhone and live in this modern chat world, unless they communicate with Android phone users. SMS handles most of the functions above with difficulty.

Maybe in many cases basic text messages are fine, but SMS also has security limitations. In the new TV commercial, WhatsApp emphasizes that SMS is very easy to track or criminals read our messages. WhatsApp and apps like Signal use technology that locks messages from prying eyes. This encryption technology drew criticism because it also hid messages from law enforcement.

I want to put a little effort into the simple beauty of SMS. You can’t use WhatsApp to message friends who use iMessage, but SMS is common. And I don’t feel comfortable suggesting that everyone use WhatsApp and make a Big Tech company the gateway to all of our digital communication.

I ask Nitesh Patel, director of wireless media research at Strategy Analytics, if there’s a middle ground between America’s reliance on SMS and a corporate app like WhatsApp is becoming the digital door. Patel cites a more up-to-date cousin to SMS known as RCS, or rich communication services. (I know, the jargon is terrible.)

RCS is a mess, but it has more modern features than SMS and is quite secure. Like SMS, it is a shared technology that no one company controls. Google pushed RCSand it has replaced SMS texting on some Android phones. But Apple will most likely never go with itwhich means that RCS will never be a ubiquitous messaging technology.

The good news about America’s messaging status quo is that it’s one of the few areas of technology where a giant corporation doesn’t dominate our choices. Now we just need to get the SMS to be a little more interesting.

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