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Cover Story - Mobile Messaging - SMS me now! (Part I) Mobile Messaging - SMS me now! (Part I)

14 November 2002
Written by Kinny Cheng

A mobile phone isn’t any simple device anymore! Over the years, it has gone through countless stages of evolution - from being a tool which allows voice communications when away from a fixed phone line, to being a multifunctional device which can provide a host of services in addition to those mobile calls.

The ability to send and receive short messages is probably the most commonly-used feature of a mobile phone next to the traditional voice calls. Most of you readers would probably be familiar with this concept of communications, where a large percentage is actively sending and receiving short messages on a frequent basis.

Making SMS simpler

For those who don’t know, “SMS” stands for “short messaging service”. The ability to send and receive SMS messages have been around since GSM networks were introduced, but this was never actually exercised until a bit after - probably due to lack of a feasible user base to deploy the service. What was the point of having a messaging service when you didn’t have enough people to send them to or receive them from eh? :)

Since its introduction, there have been many innovations that make this particular communication concept more practical and feasible for the end user. There are many aspects of SMS messaging where this could apply - but for the purpose of this article, I will be focusing solely on the mobile phone device (see the FAQ on SMS at the end of the article for more information).

But even today, there are those individuals who find SMS messaging hard or do not see any point in making use of this feature on their mobile phone. At the end of the day, the fact that making a call is actually easier than trying to write a message - which is very true. But I am also sure that are those moments that sending a message is more appropriate, and this is where these same individuals will lose out.

“How am I supposed to type with numbers?!”

From experience, this is probably the biggest stumbling block that most people give up on trying to overcome. On first glance, one would have trouble accepting the fact of possibly composing text-based messages using a 12-digit numeric keypad!

In the days when SMS first came into existence, it was indeed impractical to try and compose short messages with a phone keypad. Although they had the respective letters printed on the keys, you would need to press a single button repeatedly to acquire the required alphabetical character - and similarly for all subsequent characters until the completion of a message.

For example, if you were trying to write the word “THERE”, you would need to press the following sequence on the keypad (note the relationship of each numeric key and the imprinted letters on those - see above keypad picture):

Word: T H E R E
Key sequence: 8, 4, 4, 3, 3, 7, 7, 7, 3, 3

To just type the word “THERE”, a total of 10 button presses is required. Imagine if you had to type an entire sentence, which could mean tens and hundreds of keypresses! This would certainly be a turn-off for the messaging concept.

However, as with all problems, the messaging dilemma has evolved to the point where a viable solution has been offered (on most mobile phones available today), and a work-around developed naturally through possible frustration.


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