30 years of SMS: Do you still use SMS? And if so, how?


With this Sunday question, the editors would like to know from you whether and how you still give the Short Message Service a right to exist today – 30 years after the first SMS was sent to a mobile phone. Do you still send SMS yourself? Or do you only receive them from an automated source?

Table of contents

  1. The first SMS arrived 30 years ago
  2. Do you still use SMS? And if so, how?
    1. Which applications do you still have for SMS today?
    2. Which services have you replaced SMS with?
  3. Participation is expressly desired
    1. Overview of the last ten Sunday questions

The first SMS arrived 30 years ago< /h2>

The first viable concept for SMS communication was developed in 1984 by Friedhelm Hillebrand, a manager at what was then Deutsche Bundespost, together with the French engineer Bernard Ghillebaert from PTT, the predecessor of Swisscom. A year later, the draft was included in the GSM standardization. The limit of 160 characters per short message already applied back then – for the reason that most postcards were written with fewer characters, Hillebrand argued. But it was still a few years before the first SMS was finally sent, and the GSM network didn't arrive until 1990.

30 years ago, on December 3, 1992, the time had finally come: Neil Papworth, a British software developer, sent an SMS with the content “Merry Christmas” from a PC to an Orbitel TPU 901 mobile phone in the British Vodafone network. Recipient was the then Vodafone manager Richard Jarvis, who was attending the company's Christmas party at the time. Only about a year ago, Vodafone took advantage of the moment and auctioned the said first SMS as an NFT. The proceeds of 107,000 euros went to the United Nations refugee agency.

The commercial launch of SMS, meanwhile, came later, at CeBIT 1994 in Hanover. At first it cost 39 pfennigs to send a single SMS; Adjusted for inflation, this corresponds to a price of around 32 euro cents today. Over time, the short message service became cheaper and cheaper, until the first flat rates were introduced. In 1998, the mark of one billion SMS per year was reached in Germany, the high point was 59.8 billion SMS in 2012, according to figures from the Federal Network Agency. Since then, however, things have been going downhill: in 2020, only 7 billion text messages were sent in Germany.

But then there was a surprising small change in trend: the Federal Network Agency registered a total of 7.8 billion SMS in 2021. The reason for this is, for example, authentication methods for Internet accounts or online banking that are being used more and more frequently, but other automated applications also keep the SMS on Life. In a few days, on December 8, 2022, the short message service is to be tested nationwide for civil protection in Germany for the first time: cell broadcast is to provide information on the warning day. All end devices that are registered in the radio cells of a specific region receive a corresponding message – similar to radio. An app as with other warning solutions is not required. Cell broadcast is therefore considered to be reliable, practicable and just as data protection compliant because no personal data has to be recorded.

Do you still use SMS? And if so, how?

But what about the ComputerBase community? Have you already sent a text message in 2022? And if so, did that happen on purpose – or maybe just accidentally when trying to send an iMessage on Apple devices? One question you can answer in the comments, if you can remember, is what year your first SMS was sent. The first mobile phones used by the community were already addressed in a previous Sunday question.

Have you texted this year?

  • Yes, I have!
  • Yes, but only by mistake instead of an iMessage.
  • No.
  • Abstain (show result)

Please log in to vote!

The question as to whether you have already received an SMS this year follows on seamlessly. As expected, the proportion of users of the short message service should be higher in this direction and maybe even close to 100 percent.

Did you receive a text message this year?

  • Yes, I have.
  • No, I haven't.
  • Abstain (Show result)

Please log in to vote!

Which applications do you still have for SMS today?

It is also interesting to see what role text messages still play in your everyday life 30 years later. Some modern applications have already been discussed, which of them do you use? Has the SMS degenerated into a pure 2FA and TAN service or are there other widely used purposes?

What other applications do you currently have for SMS?

  • I receive SMS for missed calls as a mailbox service.
  • I use SMS for two-factor authentication (2FA) for accounts.
  • My bank sends me SMS with TANs for online banking.
  • I want tracking information sent to me via SMS.
  • I regularly receive automatically generated SMS from other systems, for example for monitoring purposes or smart home applications.
  • I regularly send SMS to machine recipients, for example to reserve parking spaces.
  • I use SMS for prepaid top-up.
  • I use SMS to communicate with older family members.
  • I use SMS as a fallback for friends and acquaintances who don't use my favorite messenger.
  • I'm consciously using SMS again because I said goodbye to messenger apps and social media.
  • Abstain (show result)

Please log in to vote!

Which services have replaced SMS with you?

Finally, there is the question of which instant messenger services have replaced SMS for ComputerBase readers. In 2009, WhatsApp helped messenger apps break through. According to the Bitkom industry association, the annual volume of short messages via instant messenger services in Germany currently amounts to an average of 790 million messages per day; i.e. extrapolated around 288 billion short messages a year. That is a significantly higher volume of messages than at the peak of SMS – and without any character limit.

Which messenger services do you use?

  • Discord
  • WhatsApp
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Signal
  • Threema
  • iMessage
  • Matrix
  • Telegram
  • Wire
  • Line
  • Viber
  • Skype
  • Snapchat
  • WeChat
  • Other (see comments)
  • Abstain (show result)

Please log in to vote!

Reasons for using one or more specific instant messengers can be, for example, use by friends, demands for encryption or functions such as the support of several end devices. What is important to you when choosing a messenger app? The editors look forward to comments.

Participation is expressly desired

The editors would be very happy to receive well-founded and detailed reasons for your decisions in the comments on the current Sunday question. If you have completely different favorites, please write it in the comments.

Readers who have not yet participated in the last Sunday questions are welcome to do so. In particular, there are still exciting discussions going on in the ComputerBase forum about the last surveys.

Overview of the last ten Sunday questions

  • How, when and where Do you buy new games?
  • What does the community think about ray tracing in games?
  • Graphics settings, presets, image output and peripherals
  • Are you still on air or already on water?
  • Would you like to read more about efficient or economical hardware?
  • Have you reached your pain limit with a gaming PC?
  • GTA I & II or rather San Andreas, Vice City & GTA V?
  • What grades do you currently give AMD's AM5 platform?
  • Is the power consumption of new hardware still up to date?
  • How does Ada Lovelace calculate for Nvidia out?

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