Free instant messaging apps like iMessage and Facebook Messenger have caused the first ever decline in texts sent in the U.S., according to new research.

The report from mobile analyst Chetan Sharma claimed the average mobile user sent 678 texts a month during the last quarter. That represents a slight drop from 696 sent per user in the quarter before.

Sharma attributes the fall, which has already been evidenced in other countries, to users relying on internet-based alternatives like Apple's iMessage app and the Gtalk equivalent for Android devices.

There's also cross-platform solutions like Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Skype and What's App, all of which make it exponentially easier for smartphone owners to chat for free without spending text allowances.

Data savior

"Most western markets have seen the net revenue in the messaging segment decline. The U.S. market has resisted the decline thus far," wrote Sharma in his independent report.

"In Q3 2012, for the first time, there was a decline in both the total number of messages as well as the total messaging revenue in the market."

The slight fall in text message revenue would be bad news for mobile operators had they not already shifted the weighting of price plans in order to account for the massive growth of mobile data use.

Via New York Times, Chetan Sharma