News last week that Coca Cola are to launch worldwide SMS-enabled vending machines that allow consumers to purchase beloved Coke via their mobile devices couldn’t have come at a more game-changing time; not only for profit hungry network operators and handset manufacturers, but for Near Field Communication (NFC) powered commerce as a whole.

Apple’s recent keynote announcement around the iMessaging platform adds further fuel into this fire and could fundamentally signal the eventual death of traditional peer to peer SMS messaging and non-smart handsets as we know it. According to a recent 2011 Nielsen report, the smartphone is now playing a more critical role in our shopping habits:

“Across the board, more consumers are using their smartphone while in a store: US-82%, UK-68%, France-82%, Germany-65%, Japan-75%” and are also making more purchases on their mobile device than ever before: “US-29%, UK-28%, France-17%, Germany-28%, Japan-45%”.

 

Statistics have also shown that in just the last 12 months, the amount of smartphone data consumption has grown by 89% worldwide from 230 Megabytes (MB) in Q1 2010 to 435 MB in Q1 2011. This is all good and well for the smartphone owner, as services and technologies complementary to their handset will only grow in standardised utility and ubiquity.

So what does this mean for non-smartphone owners and manufacturers? Could this shifting paradigm in mobile data consumption and smartphone manufacturing herald a new wave of innovative mobile commerce solutions just like Coke is trying to achieve? Can the traditional SMS of old thus sustain this increasing trend towards 3G/4G data transfer?

Redefining the core premise of SMS isn’t a new thing though. Companies far and wide have appropriated gross revenues from a multiplicity of radicalised SMS related activities such as ringtone downloads, charity donations, voting, games and let’s not forget services the adult entertainment market provides.

Though what fundamentally is different here is the shift in the perception of SMS as a 1-2-1 communication system: firstly it’s no longer just that; and it has been supplemented by other more seemingly “free” forms of peer based web comms such as Blackberry’s popular messenger platform, other intercompatible messaging apps such as “WhatsApp” or even email.

Apple’s iMessage although clever in scope is fundamentally flawed and relies on several key determinant factors to be successful in wiping out SMS standardization; I mean not everyone has an iPhone for instance and I somehow doubt that network operators will allow for this monopolistic manoeuvre by the computer giant to really gain fruition. That said iPhone users and its Android counterparts are growing vastly in size by the day and has affirmatively stamped its presence in the mobile marketplace.

 

SMS however is still the no.2 use of cellphones in the US and that’s down to the fact that it’ more of a standardised technology than 3G/4G data transfer- having been around for a lot longer, is more accessible in scope and is fundamentally cheaper because of it.

The fact that an SMS can now viably produce a tangible product purchase like a can of Coke is truly exciting; and will undoubtedly open the doors to a wealth of other SMS activated commercial areas and activities that will compete to the detriment of the data consumer. Mobile commerce of this nature can and would allow for the larger market share of non-smartphone mobile users to participate in the phenomenon of mobile payment without the need of an expensive NFC powered handset.

Exciting times are definitely ahead. But for now…I need a Coke can I borrow your phone a sec?

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