/ Technology

The text takes over – is it still good to talk?

Mobile texting

Mobile phones just keep getting smarter and smarter, but the more features they offer, it seems the less likely we are to use our mobiles for their core function – actually making phone calls.

According to a report published by Ofcom, Brits are more likely to send a text message than make a mobile phone call on any given day.

As we keep tapping away on our touchscreens and keypads, are we losing the art of the catch-up call?

The young tap but don’t yak

Ofcom’s findings suggest that those aged 16-24 were far more likely to send a text than make a phone call. While 96% of younger respondents to the survey used some form of text-based communication every day (an SMS, email, social networking message or mobile communication app), just 67% made a phone call every day.

And it’s not just the young – the Ofcom report shows that not only has there been a 10% drop in landline phone use, but for the first time ever, there’s been a fall in the overall volume of mobile phone calls made across the UK in 2011.

The volume’s only down by 1% from the previous year, but this has traditionally been a figure that has always grown from one year to the next, and has never dropped before.

The future of communication?

To be honest, these findings pretty accurately reflect my own experience of using my mobile. It’s midway through the morning as I type this, and so far today I’ve sent about half a dozen text messages, but haven’t made a single phone call.

Across an entire month, that trend stays pretty constant for me. I’m on a mobile plan that allows me a very generous 600 minutes of phone calls a month, and I can’t think of a single time I’ve come anywhere close to using this allowance.

However, the last time we ‘talked’ about this, commenter Chris wasn’t a fan of texting:

‘Hate the fiddly keys on mobiles, being a bloke with size eight hands, I hate the multiple keypress nature of texting. I hate predicative text because its always wrong and when if texted, there’s always a “to and fro” of multiple questions and answers, it’s quicker and easier just to use voice and get the message done in a fraction of the time.’

As for me, I’ll text, I’ll email or use Facebook on my phone, or send messages to friends abroad with WhatsApp. All of these methods of communication are quick, instant, silent, and either cheap or free.

I’m a social person, and I’m always keen to talk at length in person. But it’s been a long time since I’ve thought of my mobile phone as being there for lengthy catch-up calls.


Phone calls and emails will do me fine. I think I have sent four texts in my life.

Another trend is for mobile text messaging to move away from SMS towards IP-based messaging channels such as iMessage, Whatsapp and Viber, removing the per-message cost and the need to have a large bundle of inclusive SMS per month. For example, I recently changed my mobile package from unlimited SMS to 150 SMS per month, because most of my texts are now IP-based.

Funnily enough, I have been through a few ‘phases’ with my mobile phones. When I was 15 or so, I had a phone with a physical keyboard – I could type texts so quickly and found it easy to send tens of them every day. Now, although the technology of my phone is significantly better, I do find it more laborious to send a text message. Particularly when auto-corrects go wrong and you try to edit the message – my indelicate fingers aren’t up to the task!

One observation, with all the emphasis on the number of children who are illiterate when they leave school, I have never met a modern child in Britain who cannot text. Despite the shorthand used I believe that texting has enabled the most avid book hating non readers to start writing.

I agree – It is a pity that so many companies are ignorant about modern trends.

It would be interesting to know whether those who text or those who talk have happier or more productive lives.

Sabine says:
27 July 2012

Having recently switched to a Blackberry from a Nokia I find it baffling that technology does not allow me to transport my contacts or messages to the new phone? The whole thing has taken on a magnitude of 10 on the Richter scale, as I am dilligently inputting all my contacts again, by hand.. Never mind important text messages that I wanted to keep – especially those from my husband who passed away last year! It would seem that Vodafone will not allow it…why not?

Mobile phones are highly accomplished in some ways but in others they are still toys. It’s may not change until users start making a fuss. At one stage you could not keep your number when you changed your network, but that soon changed.

You could try copying your numbers from the old SIM to one of the cheap backup devices that are readily available and then copying the numbers onto the new card.

It’s not surprising really that sending texts is prevailing. Phones are engaged more often than not it seems, poor audibility and lack of privacy are serious impediments to conversation, and since many messages are functional rather than social the need for dialogue is reduced [this has come at the expense of courtesy and friendliness]. People making mobile phone calls are so concerned to make use of their idle time while stuck in traffic or on a train that they have little regard to whether it is convenient for the other party to receive a call, or whether they might be doing something rather more interesting with somebody else, and a reaction has set in: people are making themselves unavailable, not answering their phones every few minutes to hear someone’s trivial drivel, not even looking at the screen to see who is calling. So if you can’t talk to them you send them a text – at least the interruption is less invasive and less time is wasted.

Good point, John. Everyone should think about whether it is likely to be convenient for people to take a call. That is common courtesy – which seems to have become rather uncommon these days.

I like to talk to people, but text is OK for a quick instruction.

Both talk and text will compete equally. The advantages of SMS is that the sender tends to keep the message short and to the point, so no time wasting listening to someone dither dather instead of getting to the point. The recipient isn’t interrupted as there is no need to answer immediately. There is a permanent record of what was said, so there’s no arguments over who said what! Also, if you are in a congested mobile cell, SMS will always get through because it uses the relatively lightly used control channel rather than the heavily congested speech channels.

25 August 2012

I don’t have a clue what an ‘Android’ is

All I want is a basic phone that I can talk to that converts it into text and sends it to a saved name in my ‘Contacts’

I suspect an ‘Android’ is one of these all singing, all dancing gizmo’s!…….Not for me”!

I believe that Android is something that Google uses to check up on everything you are doing. I could be wrong, but…

Terry, Texting is like talking for blokes! ‘To the point’, like you said.

I use lots of texts, my phone is a Android cheap c**p smart phone and whilst i do talk on it i use it more for the internet and to text. I do find that my phone is too small for texting effectively and i much preferred buttons to touch screen. I was quite a fast texter until I got this phone :-(. Until my contract ends and I can upgrade I use speech to text when I can to send messages.
I also like texts because you privacy is not ‘invaded’ in the same way.

Wavechange… I disagree these phones are silly toys. The future of the internet has more to do with handheld devices than the PC i’m writing this text on. It’s quite widely reported that internet use, in the future will mostly be on handhelds.

I don’t think I called phones silly toys, mosa, but until we have smartphones that will work for a week without charging and will survive being used in the rain, they are not much better than toys.

You are welcome to use text messages but I cannot be bothered with them. I certainly don’t want people calling me if I’m out and about, so I agree about privacy. Speech to text could be interesting to try.

Give me a qwerty keyboard any day! Can’t stand the multi alphabet keys on my mobile and No I’m not shelling out for a ‘blackberry’ or similar which has one. Email or landline are fine. Have you noticed that if you text someone they only reply promptly if the occasion suits them, not when you need to know something!

25 August 2012

What I want is a ‘Smartphone’ that records speech, translates it into text, and then sends it!

Must be possible this day and age!

There are a whole plethora of speech to text utilities for Android devices. One comes standard with Android, another famous app is Dragon Naturally Speaking. There’s another plethora of apps dedicated to hands-free SMS messaging (texting) – useful for texting whilst in the car. Just search Google for Speech to Text for Android.

26 August 2012

The text takes over – is it still good to talk?

Oh my God,….Yes, but these days everyone seems to be on the go 24/7/365 days of the year!

At least a ‘Text’ is stored ready for them when they have a moment to spare.

For some reason or other, they seem to respond to a ‘Text’ rather than ‘Voice Mail’!