Use of instant messaging via services like WhatsApp and iMessage has overtaken regular SMS text messages.
The research has been published by Informa, which said the nearly 19 billion messages sent on chat apps outweighed the 17.6 billion sent by SMS during 2012. It is the first time that instant messaging has account for more traffic than traditional text messages. See also: Text messaging turns 20.
While the free services benefit users, it is likely to have a large impact of mobile operators which rely on SMS text messages as key revenue, according to the BBC.
Pamela Clark-Dickson from Informa said some operators are already "seeing a decline in their messaging revenues" while research firm Ovum calculates that more than $23bn revenue from SMS was lost in 2012 thanks to instant messaging apps.
Looking forward, Informa thinks that instant messaging will continue to grow but this doesn't mean the imminent end to SMS messaging. It predicts that 50 billion instant messages will be sent per day by 2014 compared to around 21 billion text messages.
Nokia has even announced a budget handset, the Asha 210, with a dedicated WhatsApp button for instant access to the messaging app.
"There is a lot of life still in SMS," added Clark-Dickson, explaining that instant messaging app users own smartphones but a large number of consumers with feature phones still reply on the reliable text message.
"They don't have mobile data plans, so there is an awfully big base of mobile phone users who are going to still find that SMS is the best messaging experience for them for a while," she said.