Video apparently killed the radio star and many analysts are claiming that email is the latest victim of our constant chase for bigger and better technology. Tech websites are crying out that everything from smartphones to social media is bludgeoning email, yet fortunately the facts don’t line up with the hype. The number of emails sent on average per day is actually growing in spite of fierce competition from other forms of electronic communication, most notably SMS and social media messaging like Facebook messages and tweets. Yet many are still predicting that the future of emails is in jeopardy despite record growth.
So what effect are things like smartphones having on email and will it defibrillate email and bring it back from the brink or ring the final death knell?
Smartphones make email more, not less, accessible
Smartphones are often cited as an email killer because they put a Facebook app at the users fingertips. However many people fail to realize that emails are as easy to reach on a smartphone as texts, Facebook messages or tweets, and therefore smartphones actually encourage email use (as compared to regular cellular phones) despite offering alternatives. Now that email can be carried around in your pocket and transmitted just as easily as a text, its use has skyrocketed. While using webmail or a desktop client to access your email service provider is still the most popular option for opening emails, the growth in smartphones and tablets mean that mobile email is taking off like never before. Emails are reaching their targets faster because emails pop up on smartphones just like texts, without requiring the effort of manually checking your inbox. This means that more and more people are viewing email as an instantaneous form of communication, meaning it no longer faces such a stark threat from other instant messaging platforms.
The advantage that email had and continues to have over its alternatives is that is is connotation-free. Emails can be framed in any way: professional or personal. While office etiquette prevents the boss from sending you tweets about your tasks or texts about clients, the place of email is fairly secure. Almost all other forms of electronic communication tend to either be too personal or restrictive in format. While alternatives could arise (Facebook messaging has massively expanded in capabilities in recent years), email is safe as long as it remains open and malleable to professional and personal needs.
What are smartphones really threatening?
If access to instant messaging is not harming email, then exactly what effect is it having? Social media messaging may not be harming email but it is certainly playing havoc with its younger sibling: SMS messaging. Instant messaging and SMS messaging reside in the same niche as they both aim to send short messages or hold text conversations instantaneously. While emails ability to harbour long messages gives it an advantage, the similarities between the functions of SMS and instant messaging has meant there has been a decrease in texts sent from smartphones in the past few years. With large data plans, many people are now willing to cut down on their SMS bundles as they can send messages via Facebook, iMessage or another platform just as easily and for a small price.
The future and beyond
Predictions in technology are often futile because one does not know what will be the norm a decade from now. It was not so many years ago that Facebook and Twitter were meaningless words, and now it is impossible to describe the communication landscape without them. However it is not a far-off estimation to say that of all forms of electronic communication, it is SMS that could be fading and not email. Statistical data backs up SMS decline and the growth of mobile internet access will widen the availability of SMS alternatives in the near future. As for email, it continues to be indispensable in the worlds of education and work and is without rival in the arena of business communication. So for the mean time, it is your texts you should be counting and not your emails.