Based on the latest research and projections by Juniper, mobile instant messaging users are on pace to surpass 1.3 billion worldwide by 2016, a figure that effectively triples the number of IM users in 2010.
Juniper speculates that the continued growth will be driven by the arrival of new services (Apple’s iMessage is cited as one example), and the accelerated adoption of existing services like AOL’s AIM, Blackberry Messenger, Microsoft’s Windows Live, Skype and Yahoo! Messenger.
The launch of these free Mobile IM services has been facilitated by the increasing number of smartphones in use, low-cost data packages and the development of high speed mobile networks. While some IM services are ad-funded, most are viewed by the operators as customer retention tools, with the only cost to the user being the data usage charged.
Juniper, however, sees no sign of Mobile IM services replacing SMS as a primary means of text communication on mobile handsets.
“SMS has one distinct advantage over ‘over-the-top’ services: its ubiquity,” writes Mobile Messaging Markets Report author Daniel Ashdown. “With an SMS I know I can reach almost any handset in the world, if I have its number. While IM services have some advantages, such as real-time communication and apparent absence of cost, the market is fragmented by different services which cannot communicate with each other.”
Juniper’s research also led to projections that premium-rate SMS and MMS will decline due to challenges from other forms of billing and delivery. MMS traffic and revenue, on the other hand, will continue to grow, but Application-to-Person (A2P) MMS will not have as big of an impact as A2P SMS. Lastly, Juniper finds that mobile email adoption will likely persist as the number of handsets with QWERTY keyboards, Internet access and larger screens increase.
To read the full Mobile Messaging Markets Report from Juniper, click here.