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SMS services still deserve attention despite the rise of smart phone apps

By: Peter Keung | September 26, 2013 | Business solutions, Productivity tools, and User experience

Countless presentations are made daily about the ubiquity of smart phones and the new, groundbreaking uses of smart phone apps. However, in many cases, humble text message services can be more useful and efficient.

Undoubtedly, smart phone adoption has exploded and is continuing to grow rapidly in Canada and the United States.  Canada's smart phone penetration rate is 62%, while in the US it is about 60%. However, if we take Canada as an example, that's based on the 76% total mobile phone penetration rate. Since someone can have multiple mobile devices, that doesn't equate to 76% of people owning a mobile phone, but we could roughly say that if 76% of Canadians own a cell phone, then 47% (62% of 76) of Canadians own a smart phone.

SMS is the original and most popular data application for consumer wireless networks and is built in to all modern phones, smart phone or not. There is no need to download an app or deal with finicky data connections.

Before implementing a service, one should consider multiple communication channels, including a website, voice, a smart phone app, and SMS in order to optimize the user experience, cost, accessibility, reach, and more.

Here are some examples where SMS works well:

1. Citizens reporting non-emergency issues to the police department

The City of Abbotsford has reported that their text message reporting service gets several contacts a day, versus only several contacts a month through their online form.

2. Confirming dentist appointments

The receptionist at any dentist office spends a non-negligible amount of time each day phoning people to confirm appointments. My dentist recently added a reminder and confirmation service via text message; if I reply with "c" the appointment is automatically confirmed in their system. The receptionist can still call those who don't respond or who don't have a cell phone.

3. Real-time bus schedule information

Our bus schedule SMS service complements the local transit authority's service, and we recently added an automated voice interface to increase the system's accessibility. You are prompted to enter the bus stop number in question, and it will send back (or read) information about the buses that will arrive next.