Communication is something that is constantly evolving with the times. The rapid advances in technology mean that new methods of interacting with our friends, family and colleagues are introduced with almost every generation. As they are, the quickest and most convenient methods of communication survive while the previous ones begin to die out. The Darwinian way that communication evolves means that things like letter writing, fax machines and pagers are now incredibly rare, if not things of the past entirely.
In 2016, one of the forms of communication that many people are predicting will begin to die off next is the traditional phone call. In fact, Deloitte, a business that provides industry insights, is predicting that 25% of people using smartphones will have stopped making phone calls by the end of this year. They argue that there are so many advances in the way that we communicate with people that picking up the phone, scrolling our contacts and dialing the person we want to to converse with could become outdated.
As little as 15 years ago, having a voice conversation with someone was the primary reason why someone would buy a cell phone. They are, after all, telephones by definition. So what has changed? In short, the rise of various cutting-edge alternatives has reduced their need over the last few years. Many people will choose to use send text messages, write emails or communicate via instant messaging apps or social media instead. The app WhatsApp now has 900 million monthly users, for example, while 236 million people are actively using the social media platform Twitter.
There are a couple of reasons why many people in the industry are predicting that traditional phone conversations are going to be overshadowed by other services in 2016. One is that they believe businesses are not going to need to rely on them as much as they once needed to. As businesses are becoming far more international with the majority of commerce conducted online, they may have clients, customers and partners across the world. To contact them via phone would be expensive. However, by contrast, Skype calls or Google Hangouts allow these conversations to take place for free. These conversations aren’t restricted to the telephone with this technology either; they can be performed by laptops, tablets, etc. for the purposes of conference calls or group meetings.
Of course, it is not just businesses that are expected to lead the way in dropping phone calls. For ordinary people, particularly young ones, text messages and instant messaging are often thought to be far simpler in this day and age. They can be done anywhere because it is so discreet. Meanwhile, text conversations can be performed whilst multitasking (you can chat with a friend whilst watching TV or having dinner) and they can prevent any of the confusion created by poor quality phone calls.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that spoken conversation over a smartphone will die out entirely – at least not yet. After all, there are many scenarios in which people would rather communicate instantly than send a message and have to wait for a response. Emergencies and important news are, for instance, both things that people would prefer to discuss than read about in a tweet. However, the ways in which we will do this are certainly already changing – and are doing so at quite a rapid rate. Innovations like video calls and WiFi calls and are expected to become far more common in 2016 than ever before. Both have advantages in that they are more personal, can have a better quality and don’t suffer drop-out in network dead zones. Facebook integrated video calls into is Messenger in 2015 due to their rising popularity. Similarly, WhatsApp is currently testing the technology for its own app too.
Mobile network providers like Three and T-Mobile are attempting to make changes to voice calls to keep them relevant in this new digital age. Voice Over WiFi and Voice Over LTE is being introduced to improve the quality of calls, which are expected to be available for more than 300 million users by the end of 2016. Some businesses are also embracing Voice Over Internet Protocol which is connected to the internet and allows for greater accessibility and security. But can this really prevent the decline in voice calling? With the survival-of-the-fittest trend that communication takes, it seems like it will only be a temporary solution. One can’t help but wonder if voice calls will slowly be replaced on devices like smartphones in the coming years. And one can’t help but wonder if their decline truly will begin in 2016.
Daniel is an online writer whose work has appeared on Yahoo, Tech Cocktail and many other websites. He is a journalism graduate who currently works for a digital marketing agency in the United Kingdom.