It might be hard for you to imagine a world before the influence of text messaging. It was 25 years ago that software engineer Neil Papworth sent the world’s very first text message to Vodafone executive Richard Jarvis, and subsequently changed the course of communication technology.

Today, around 26 million text messages are sent on the Vodafone network every single day. This number speaks volumes about how far telecommunications has come and how we as users have had to evolve and adapt to the technology available to us.

In fact, I still remember the first text message I ever sent, in February or March of 1995, on an Ericsson 337. It was a one-line screen phone and I could only send 24 characters. So, I was a little late to the game, but just look how far texting has come now!

Let’s take a journey back through the evolution of text messages, which should make you feel old…

1992 – The first ever text message was sent by software engineer Neil Papworth to his friend Richard Jarvis, an executive at Vodafone UK (Papworth’s client at the time). Not the first time Vodafone has been at the heart of cutting edge technology!

1993 – This was a huge year for Nokia, who debuted their first GSM line that had the ability to send texts. It may seem crazy now, but text messages could only be sent between two people on the same network back then.

1995 – Only two years after the launch of text messaging came the start of predictive texting in 1995. In its earliest form, called ‘T9’ (developed by Tegic Communications), the technology started to predict letters based on which ones you were typing.

1997 – Nokia led the way again in 1997 by introducing the QWERTY keyboard on the Nokia 9000i Communicator – the first phone to have a keyboard like this.

1999 – It wasn’t until 1999 that you could actually start texting between networks. With that, a worldwide phenomenon was born, and by 2000, people were sending about 35 texts per month per person in the US (which seems like quite a low number now).

2006 – Twitter launched in 2006, and actually borrowed functionality from the text message. The social media network launched with their famous 140-character limit (which, including the 20-character limit for your username, makes up the 160-character limit of text messages).

2007 – Texting had truly taken off by 2007. For the first time, it overtook calling as the most popular form of communication in the US, according to Nielsen Mobile.

2010 – Text messaging then reached an astronomical volume. The International Telecommunications Union reported that 200,000 text messages were sent every second and 6.1 trillion texts were sent worldwide in 2010.

2012 – This is when text messages reached their peak, as today’s messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage started taking over. Times are constantly changing – you never know who’s going to stay on top!

2015 – Messaging apps continue to grow, as 30 billion messages were sent through WhatsApp globally as opposed to 20 billion via SMS, according to research by The Economist.

2016 – This number increased again – 60 billion messages were sent per day through Messenger and WhatsApp compared to 20 billion text messages. In Australia, Roy Morgan Research showed that the number of people using Facebook Messenger on their mobile phone in an average four weeks grew by 19% year on year.

2017 – In Australia alone, 800 million text messages are sent per month on the Vodafone network, and 308 texts are sent per second! So while messaging apps are a popular choice, there’s still no shortage of texting happening.

Yep, we’ve come a long way since that first text message. We’re proud at Vodafone to provide our customers with such an important service that allows you to communicate with family, friends, business colleagues and more.

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Ben McIntosh

Chief Commercial Officer

Ben McIntosh,
Chief Commercial Officer

As Consumer Business Unit Director at Vodafone, Ben is one of Australia’s foremost telco thought leaders with a strong background in retail. Ben is deeply passionate about freedom and choice, and about challenging the status quo for our customers.

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