iMessage, to be included in Apple's iOS5 update.

Sending text messages remains the single most common thing people do with their phones — well, other than using them as phones.

But the meteoric rise of mobile apps — including free alternatives to traditional SMS texting — is changing how many of those messages are sent, and shaking up the wireless world in the process.

Numbers released this week by comScore Networks demonstrate the trend. Among U.S. mobile subscribers, usage of downloaded apps has grown sharply over the past year — from less than 32 percent last summer to almost 40 percent as of this June.

By comparison, a whopping 70 percent of mobile users send text messages. But as explained by the Wall Street Journal, free apps such as TextNow and Apple’s upcoming iMessage promise to change how many people sent those texts.

Another sign of the trend: The next version of Microsoft’s Windows Phone will integrate texting with Facebook chat, letting users switch between them without starting a new conversation.

The WSJ says the alternatives threaten a major source of revenue for the big wireless carriers. Texting generated $25 billion in revenue in the U.S. and Canada last year.

Have you stopped paying for SMS and switched to a free app? We’re curious how many people have ditched paying a 20-cent per-text fee or a $20-per-month unlimited text messaging plan.

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  • Guest 3.

    For businesses and mobile marketing, the other emerging solution is mobile web based chat and enhanced chat that operates over data only, no per message, rates (integrated within apps as well).  For conversational mobile marketing this is an untapped sweet spot.

    You were right the first time, mobile devices are used more for text based communication than as phones.  Especially for the 12-39 age group.

    There is no reason to have per message charges anymore.  Those days are over and a number of companies bilked us for billion$ in the process.

  • Jimewins

    I don’t understand how text messaging can have much quality content.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sending my text msgs using Google Voice — they’re free.

  • Ricardo

    Your analysis was very good. I agree with you.

  • david prokop

    Mobile text apps will be the end of carrier charges. 
    Texting Apps are Free
    Deep Integration – watch for heavy integration of SMS texting into social networks, google, Apple, Microsoft hardware,
    Future – automatic language translators, automatic text encryption, “One click” texting

    typical younger gen comments:
    – The youth market does prefer texting. Talking on the phone in public is considered rude. Besides, old fuddy duddies can overhear what they say.

    – Most often, texting is more useful than a voice call. Crowded bars. Trains, buses, workplaces, etc. The analyst in the article got it wrong – texting hasn’t stopped being “cool” at all – it’s voice calls that are outdated.

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