More mobile phone owners are using in-app chat and messaging services rather than traditional SMS text messaging, says a report by research firm Informa.

The company claims that 17.6 billion mobile phone text messages were sent worldwide on average each day in 2012, but 19 billion "free" messages a day were sent over chat applications, such as WhatsApp and BBM, and Apple's iMessage service.

Informa also expects chat messaging to grow further over. It claims that by 2014, 50 billion in-app chat messages will be sent daily, in comparison to 21 billion SMS text messages. However, although it will clearly be dwarfed by usage of the free services, SMS still has a future.

"There is a lot of life still in SMS," said analyst Pamela Clark-Dickson of Informa, who explained that users in developing and less economically stable countries would continue to use the format for the foreseeable future. "They don't have mobile data plans, so there is an awfully big base of mobile phone users who are going to still find that SMS is the best messaging experience for them for a while."

How this will affect the networks is not yet clear. Although many monthly tariffs include unlimited text messages, pay-as-you-go mobile phone payment plans and text messaging fees still account for a large amount of revenue earned by mobile operators. And separate research firm Ovum estimate that more than £15 billion was lost in SMS revenue thanks to instant messaging apps.

Perhaps competitive 4G data plans, in the UK at least, will make up the shortfall.

Rik Henderson

Our senior ed of news and features has been a tech and games journalist for more than 27 years, and has been with Pocket-lint for over five. Rik has edited a number of videogame magazines in the past, was deputy editor of Home Cinema Choice, and his TV career included stints as co-presenter of Channel 4's Gamesmaster and Sky One’s Games World.

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Hunter Skipworth

The baby of the Lint team, Hunter has been a tech fan since he bought his first MiniDisc..and what a waste of money that was. He began writing about electronics at the age of 16 and hasn't stopped since. Nowadays he fulfils his mobile phone and gaming obsession whilst attempting to distract people from his bizarre name. Regular meetings with the Gladiators crew see Hunter often returning to work battered and bruised. Considers himself a music obsessive, was once the most highly decorated scout in the country. Fan of trousers.

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