I recognize that complaining about a cell phone bill is a ‘first world problem”, but reviewing the overage charges on a recent statement from my service provider triggered an interesting conversation with my daughter. It also nearly triggered an apoplectic fit but that’s another story. Although we’ve stayed with the same company, we’ve tried tailoring details of the plan for each member of the family. Despite the tweaks, my husband and younger daughter exceed their plan every.single.time.
As I reviewed our usage over the past several months, something became obvious. We rarely used our phones to make calls. My husband and I are roughly 75/25 for our call and data usage – sometimes we call (25%) but usually we text (75%). For our daughters, the gap was even greater. They rarely call and almost exclusively text – their split was roughly 95/5. In fact, I’d say the only time they use their phones as a “phone” is if they get a voice mail or message from a parent asking them to call. My daughter informed me “Mom, no one calls anymore. If it wasn’t for you and Dad I wouldn’t even know if my phone had a ringtone.”
For years, providers have bundled services – voice, data, and text – allowing users a limited number of choices in how those three would combine within a plan. Voice was always the core of the plan and still remains highly profitable. But with news apps rolling out every day, social media like Facebook or Twitter, and instant messaging options available, fewer people are making calls.
“We believe that smartphone customers are decreasingly interested in using their device for voice services,” says Walter Piecyk, an analyst at BTIG Research.
Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip wrote an entire post about his love of texting over a phone call. “When I get a text alert, it always makes me happy, even before I read the message. When my phone rings, I think, Uh-oh, what fresh hell is this?”
He’s not alone with that attitude. In fact, “Canadians sent an average of almost 2,500 SMS messages every second last year, for a total of about 78 billion”, according to data collected by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.
I think it’s safe to say voice services on cell phones isn’t going anywhere fast. There remains a significant demographic that don’t text and likely never will. My in-laws don’t turn on their cell phone unless they’re on a road trip and wouldn’t even consider texting any more than they’ll give in to newfangled ideas like online banking.
But, in the words of Scott Adams, “Wireless voice calls are dinosaurs, and that big shadow you see is a meteor.”