Yahoo! (NAS: YHOO) has expanded its mobile presence to include mobile messaging. Yesterday, the company introduced a beta version of Hub, a free device-agnostic texting app available through Google's (NAS: GOOG) Android Market.
Unlike Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iMessage or Research In Motion's (NAS: RIMM) BlackBerry Messenger, Hub users can text contacts using any carrier or device, even feature phones. In addition, contacts receiving messages are not required to have the app themselves. iMessage and BlackBerry Messenger work only among users of those services.
Hub messages are sent over Wi-Fi or data connections, and users will not incur traditional texting fees regardless of how many messages they send. Hub offers group messaging, instant notifications, and free local and international messaging to select countries.
Hub users must have a device running Android 2.2 or above, a U.S. SIM card, and a texting plan.
Yahoo! is one of many entering the field for mobile messaging. In August, Facebook revealed its own free texting app, Messenger, which allows users to message Facebook friends in real time and is available for devices running iOS, Android, or BlackBerry. And earlier this year Microsoft's (NAS: MSFT) Skype acquired group messaging solutions start-up GroupMe, and device maker Samsung Electronics launched ChatON, a carrier-agnostic mobile-messaging app.
The move toward application-based texting, highlighted by Yahoo!'s new Hub, is likely to cut into wireless carriers' SMS revenues as more and more users sign on to such services. Chetan Sharma of Chetan Sharm Consulting said in a new report that the United States has unseated the Philippines as the king of text messaging, with almost 664 messages per subscriber per month, while the Philippines which is seeing a sharp decline in per-user messaging because of IP messaging. He said some of the European operators are also experiencing the pain of declining SMS usage. But analysts have pointed out that any reduction in SMS revenues (most wireless carriers charge 10 cents per SMS) will be more than offset by increases in carriers' data revenues.
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