LOS ANGELES — Millions of people around the world use their cell phones not to make phone calls, but to send text messages. And it’s a huge revenue stream for service providers, many of whom are trying to take texting to the next level.
Each day, more than two billion text messages are typed out in the world — that's three quarter of a trillion messages a year. And one estimate suggests that the average Filipino sends 230 text messages a day.
Cingular has cashed in on the texting craze — its service hosts the number one use for texting in America.
But texting has a big disadvantage: It takes too long. Messages are typed out one key press at a time and just typing hello takes 13 key presses. That's one reason for all the shorthand: “talk to you later” becomes “ttyl.” So companies want to make the process easier (make that "ezr.")
“Text messaging is the fastest growing application on phones worldwide,” notes Mike Donnell, CEO of Zi Corporation, a Canadian company that makes software designed to make text messaging easier.
Zi Corporation is selling Easy Text software to Nokia and Ericsson that predicts what you want to text, based on the first key press and on what you've texted before.
“So if I want to send a message to my daughter that says, “Don't forget your homework.” I would write d-o-n-t … and the software is predicting the next word ‘forget...’,” he said.
Easy Text can cut the number of key presses by two thirds. The service is available in 42 languages, with dominant positions in China and moving into India.
Samsung is trying to get rid of key presses altogether. It’s new P-207 phone converts voice to text. You record pre-selected words so the phone can recognize your voice. Then, to send a message, you press down and pause between each word.
If it picks the wrong word, you highlight the wrong words and the phone suggests replacements. The software is supposed to improve with each use.
But when it comes to text, telecom entrepreneur Jason Jepson says, “keep it simple stupid!” Jepson says text should remain basic, easy, and fun. For example, one of his Web sites, MMinder lets you plan ahead to send text reminders to your phone for appointments. Another, Umbeijo lets you send pre-selected flirt lines to people you know.
“My favorite, of course, is: ‘Aside from being sexy, what do you do for a living?’” he said.
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