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« On Fathers of Industry, On Mobile Data and on.. Everything | Main | Revised Smartphone Installed Base Numbers, Global and Related Handset Stats - Based on recent Pew survey data »

April 15, 2016


abdul muis

Thanks for the great number / analysis. I still wondering what kind of old phone in 2016 that have no MMS capabilities. I think it must be that bad-ass Nokia phone that refuse to die.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi abdul

Yeah the very very basic 15 dollar voice + SMS only with no camera and monochrome display. They still sell

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Per "wertigon" Ekström

@Wayne Brady:

It's not a question of volume but of reach.

SMS reaches many more than Whatsapp.

Of course, SMS isn't always free to send - it is free on FB and WhatsApp...

Per "wertigon" Ekström


If it costs money to send a message that is one extra consideration whether or not I will send it.

SMS is not always free. Facebook is. That means the comparison is bogus.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Wayne and Per

The traffic on OTT messaging is FAR larger than the traffic on SMS. If you were an investor of Whatsapp, that is the happy story you'd be peddling to everybody and silly journalists would be buying it.

Who cares? Only Whatsapp or its owners (and similar OTT providers).

If you're a heavy messaging user (teen) you'd want the cheapest easiest messaging option that reaches your best buddies. Thats some OTT service and in the Western world its mostly Whatsapp now but was for example BBM on Blackberries late last decade when the first OTT-powered youth revolt in messaging started. Those youth will of course use Whatsapp or whatever, whenever they can. They are the first in the 1M Whatsapp user base who joined and as they already averaged 100 SMS sent per day in the time of SMS (where the world average is 3 sent per subscriber per day) obviously that quickly tipped the balance of the heavy users to the OTT side.

For those heavy users, its a big money-saver and its also a convenience; plus often early on, its a 'secretive' method where not everybody is there (yet). Good for teens. By the time your mom and dad are there, that coolness factor has gone.

But that is traffic which is person-to-person. That is not where most - say 95% - of my readers are interested. Our readers are interested in media reach. To use mobile for delivering news or games or music or advertising or as a payment channel or for healthcare or education or as a social media or an Augmented Reality platform etc etc etc etc. For ALL those uses - its REACH not messaging VOLUME. That is why MMS - yes MMS - is FAR more relevant today than Whatsapp as reach of mobile phone pockets. Even as MMS gets only a few messages sent per subscriber PER MONTH and Whatsapp gets something like 50 per DAY. But MMS reaches 3.5 Billion mobile phone subscribers (note with some overlap, the actual unique MMS audience is 2.7B but Whatsapp will also have some users with multiple accounts so its total unique user base won't be 1.0B today, it will be less). So comparing apples to apples, MMS reaches 3.5 times larger audience than Whatsapp.

Now the MATH on MMS gets astronomically wicked. MMS is opened at 98%, MMS gets responses within 5 minutes, MMS gets response rates 3 TIMES better than SMS. Every consumer receiving an MMS knows how to respond to it - its response mechamism IS that most used one by audience, ie SMS. In fact, most consumers THINK that MMS is SMS with a picture. They don't even know its not SMS. So MMS alone is bigger than ALL smartphone APP revenues worldwide (most of which is not OTT messaging, you know perfectly well, most of app store revenue is gaming).

So for any media use, the relevant metric is reach. Not usage. The talk now about 'most engaged' users is yet another way for Facebook and Whatsapp to spin their story, as they notice they are a tiny fraction of the mobile industry reach, and their advertisers and media brands are noticing that TOO. So if the total volume argument doesn't work anymore, then lets try total time engaged or the level of engagement by the users. That doesn't take away the fact, that if you as a media, start with Whatsapp - you are literally avoiding 4 out of 5 people you COULD reach USING THE SAME DEVICE ie mobile phones. Thats what I call dumb in my book. Mobile STARTS with mobile first, which always was and for at least 10 more years continues to be - SMS - and after you've done SMS ie reached every pocket - THEN you add the other stuff like MMS, mobile web, QR codes (and in many markets also voice), and then later, perhaps apps, perhaps Facebook, perhaps NFC, perhaps Whatsapp etc.

So that is why this theme is needed still, repeatedly, because of that fallacy in the logic. It doesn't matter if you double your ads inside Whatsapp, you keep sending your ads to only those 20% who are there and you keep ignoring the 80% of your target who are outside Whatsapp.

Lastly, obviously, all studies confirm that those who use Whatsapp mostly do not quit using SMS, but only dramatically reduce their usage of SMS. And those studies do not even consider the option of using SMS as a media - what about unlocking the email account that got locked for some bizarre reason - and you need to receive an SMS message with your new verification code? THAT is EXACTLY the type of service I mean when I say, only SMS reaches every pocket. You can't do that on Whatsapp (alone) because 80% of your email service users are not Whatsapp users. And even IF a given Whatsapp user is in that 5% who went to Whatsapp and actually quit using SMS - they all KNOW HOW to use SMS and can be reached with that password code message. Those consumers would not say they are 'using' SMS but they were. This is what I mean, SMS reaches every pocket and thats the most relevant metric for any media. 4.8 Billion unique humans, an unprecedented number in human history.

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Wayne Brady

That's why I find you so valuable. It's hard to understand how "the world" is. I've received exactly zero MMS advertising messages. I have a few companies that have opt-in text messages like my local grocery store.

Meanwhile, I see and interact with FB ads every day, Twitter too. I have apps for my banks, hotels, credit cards, airlines, grocery stores, clothing stores galore.

Phil W

well here in France I get adds sent by SMS for various shops. Usually they are promoting offers available at the stores. I also get notification of my monthly mobile charges and the date they will be taken from my account via SMS from Orange. For a reason too complicated to explain, I am not able to use whatsapp.


Hi, I have been a reader since about a year but first time poster.
I am from Italy, 42yo but most of my friends are younger than me, I travel quite a bit and used to travel a lot more and much farther when I was working, I am also a very early, and very enthusiastic, adopter of smartphones (I was using an Ericsson P800 3-4 YEARS before Jobs "invented" the smartphone... a "smartphone" so revolutionary and magic that it had no copy&paste, no MMS, no multitasking, no installable apps, no video capabilities etc LMAO!! For A LOT of reasons if there is a company that I literally hate, with a passion, is Apple! Always hated their philosophy, their HW and above all their SW!).
All of this to say that I know of how things work, in the area covered by this blog, in different parts of the world, and there was a lot of variance but I notice less and less so (which is a good thing).
Still, until last year on my smartphone, tablet (both Android, of course) and laptop (Windows) I had to have Hangout for my American friends, Viber for my Belarusian and Russian friends, Skype for videochats with my ex-wife in Australia, Telegram for a few "alternative" friends who think that the govt is out to get them and wants to spy on the BS that they write, Facebook and Facebook Messenger for those very few who didn't have or want a smartphone and for other types of social interaction (I mean not IM) and Whatsapp for everybody else that made up the bulk of everyday Instant Messaging (for relatives and friends in Italy, a few relatives and friends in Germany and friends in UK).

I also wanted to say that here in Italy almost no one uses SMS anymore and the vast majority of people have never sent or received an MMS in their life (I myself must have sent/received a grand total of a dozen of them, tops, with the last one 6-8 years ago)... I noticed that there are operators that don't even support them at all ("life:)" in Belarus, for example, and yes, the emoticon is part of the name LOL).
Everybody, including many businesses, just use Whatsapp (it's the first app people install, even my 68yo mother has it on her Lumia and actively uses it :) ) and then of course Facebook etc
In Italy I have a somewhat typical prepaid plan where for 9 euro a month I get 450 mins calls, 450 SMS and 1GB Internet at full speed plus unlimited data with speed caps under that (in Belarus, with life:), it's about 7 euro/month with 600 mins, 2GB internet with no free overage and 0 SMS but SMS are dirt cheap there, they are around 0,03 Euro!! But very few people use them anyway). I have almost never used up my call time and I go whole months without even sending 1 single SMS (and receiving almost only the ones from my bank about activity on my c/c and cards).
That's a very common usage pattern, especially with people from my age to the youngest users.

I see this being the future pretty much everywhere...

P.S. Oh and in the next few months I am moving to Belarus (I have recently retired.. :P) and uninstalled all of what I mentioned above and only kept Whatsapp and Hangout (yes, deleted also my FB account :D ), I warned all of my contacts and gave them an "ultimatum" to the ones that were not using Whatsapp or Hangout and made my Belarusian GF install Hangout (she has an iPhone) LOL
I am trying to "simplify" my life in every possible way and can't tell you how good it feels to ged rid of things...... XD


Oops, just realized the error, 1 SMS in Belarus with my carrier is 0,015 Euro
(yes 1,5 Eurocent!), it's at least 9 Eurocents in Italy but more typically around 12, when not included in plans, so almost ten times more...


@FIGJAM: But what happens if you are at an international airport and your airline sends you a message that you can upgrade cheaply to the business class?

I usually switch off mobile data when I'm abroad, and I'm not always logged in to the airport WIFI (e.g. because I have used the free traffic). So SMS is the only way to reach me.

Or when I'm in a hotel in some country where I get only one WIFI account which I use for my notebook? Then you have to use SMS to reach me.


All of the companies that I deal with use preferably e-mail as a means of communication, few use SMS and much fewer still (that I know of) use only SMS for such type of offers (and I must add that generally speaking I am not interested in ads or offers of any type) and I wouldn't have the type of trouble you have anyway because in the last few years I have always traveled with my smartphone (presently a Note 3 BTW) where I keep the SIM of the country I am in and a Samsung tablet (presently a Tab S 10.5 LTE) where I keep the SIM of the country I am traveling to (Samsung have always had, since their very first one, tablets with full phone capabilities, I LOVE them!) and I switch SIMs in flight before landing. So, I am at all times under internet coverage and can both make and receive phone calls and SMS (plus all of the other internet-based IM apps) for/to both of the countries I am traveling to/from.
It's really an ideal setup ;)
P.S. I don't travel with my laptop since years, I have fully replaced it, when I travel, with the Android tablet that I have at the moment. Both my phone and tablet run the latest Samsung Lollipop ROM, are rooted, heavily customized in many ways and can fully replace my PC, for what I need when I travel. In several instances I have connected my phone or tablet at a monitor, keyboard and mouse, speakers and external storage (HDs, pendrives ecc) and used them practically as a full-blown PC. My phone, my tablet and my Chromecast, with some accessories and adapters, are all I need these days and all of them together are very light and occupy a very small volume...
Man, I love stuff like this that really makes life easier and more pleasant :D


P.S. and I am not talking about "light work" here... I have 32+128=160GB total storage on my Note and 16+200=216GB on my tablet, I have on them basically all of the exact same files that I have on my laptop at home (that I can still access remotely anyway...).



"I also wanted to say that here in Italy almost no one uses SMS anymore"

Where I live SMS are used

a) to get access to bank accounts (two-factor authentication, the one-time passcode is automatically received via SMS);

b) to confirm credit card payments (similar process);

c) to manage options of a mobile price plan (activate and deactivate, for instance, roaming to specific countries, higher mobile data quotas, etc);

d) to receive codes to unlock the SIM of a mobile phone.

True enough, (a), and also (b), are increasingly being done via apps, or possibly a special-purpose device, but SMS has been the technique of choice for many years.

I would be extremely surprised that people in Italy would not "use" SMS _at_ _all_.

As for corporations relying on Whatsapp, I have never seen or heard about that. Typical approaches are e-mail, some form of intranet communication, or a VoIP solution. Basically, it has to work within the back-end environment (usually some Microsoft infrastructure or an ERP/SCM system). Do you have any reference to actual case studies on using OTT like Whatsapp/WeChat/... integrated in a corporate environment? That could be interesting.

Wayne Brady

@ECasais - I forgot about SMS's role in two factor authentication. Yes, I have a number of those accounts as well

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    Tomi Ahonen is a bestselling author whose twelve books on mobile have already been referenced in over 100 books by his peers. Rated the most influential expert in mobile by Forbes in December 2011, Tomi speaks regularly at conferences doing about 20 public speakerships annually. With over 250 public speaking engagements, Tomi been seen by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people on all six inhabited continents. The former Nokia executive has run a consulting practise on digital convergence, interactive media, engagement marketing, high tech and next generation mobile. Tomi is currently based out of Helsinki but supports Fortune 500 sized companies across the globe. His reference client list includes Axiata, Bank of America, BBC, BNP Paribas, China Mobile, Emap, Ericsson, Google, Hewlett-Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, LG, MTS, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Ogilvy, Orange, RIM, Sanomamedia, Telenor, TeliaSonera, Three, Tigo, Vodafone, etc. To see his full bio and his books, visit Tomi Ahonen lectures at Oxford University's short courses on next generation mobile and digital convergence. Follow him on Twitter as @tomiahonen. Tomi also has a Facebook and Linked In page under his own name. He is available for consulting, speaking engagements and as expert witness, please write to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com

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