The number of mobile phone calls being made has started falling for the first time. Ofcom believes if the trend continues, we’ll be making 25 per cent fewer voice calls in five years. At the same time, analysts believe mobile messaging will almost double in the same period.
We prefer messaging because it’s asynchronous. Voice calls are intrusive and demand more emotional and intellectual RAM than a text, which can be dealt with silently in your own time. And phone messaging has grown beyond standard SMS. One of the world’s top paid-for mobile applications is a little thing called WhatsApp, which allows minimal-cost (or free with WiFi) texting across mobile platforms and is quite addictive for its millions of users.
But messaging is moving on. The short, private video message – an idea so new it doesn’t yet have an acronym – is showing signs of being the next big thing. It’s quite different from Skype video and Apple FaceTime, which are even more of a time and effort investment than a voice call, or YouTube, which is public. A short video message means that if you’re a business traveller in a distant time zone, a CEO wanting to get a message to your global minions, a soldier stationed abroad, or a gap-year student, you can send bite-sized watch-on-receipt communications with a few seconds’ effort.
Of course, you can already record a video on most phones and email it, but nobody does. And Whatsapp addicts will say it has a facility to send video (and audio) messages, but they’re phone-to-phone only, a bit buried in the menu and just not what WhatsApp is famous for. This innovative app from a British startup backed by O2’s parent Telefónica is called Six3, and could – I emphasise the could – be as big as Twitter.
Apart from being absurdly user-friendly and addressing a real need (albeit one we didn’t know we had), it allows you to send videos of up to 63 seconds to another user, multiple users or to anyone’s email for free. The recipient watches the message on their phone – or computer, which I think is a huge advance on phone-to-phone – and reply by video from a phone, PC or Mac.