ARLINGTON, Texas - To get into his first Texas Rangers game, Brian Gorham didn't need a ticket. He simply flashed his cell phone.
His baseball ticket had been sent via text message a few days earlier to his Motorola KRZR.
"What it says is that text messaging has become mainstream. It's not some kid technology just for chatting," Gorham said.
While we still make four phone calls for every text message sent, that ratio has been shrinking in recent years. Many people prefer to send a text message when they are just as capable of dialing someone's number and hearing their voice.
Gorham is that way with his wife. "I can text message faster if I get to a stoplight," he said. "Then I don't have to worry about her wanting to talk for five minutes."
In 2006, cell phone users sent 158 billion text messages, almost double the 81 billion sent in 2005, according to CTIA-The Wireless Association.
Consumers in Europe are way ahead of Americans in using text messaging, mainly because there is much better access to public transportation. The U.S. market for text messaging seems to have fully blossomed, said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at JupiterResearch in New York.
It may come as no surprise that the younger the cell phone user, the more popular text messaging becomes. In fact, 73 percent of teens who use cell phones are texting.
But older consumers are starting to embrace the text message.
And that is affecting how sales reps at Verizon Wireless and other cell phone stores pitch their products.
Lea Hilton, a data-solutions manager for Verizon, recently noticed the trend at a store in South Texas, where "winter Texans" descend from the North to temporarily escape the cold during their retirement years.
"The sales reps were at first hesitant to even talk about data features, because these guys were just wanting traditional voice phones," Hilton said. "Some of the reps realized, 'I may not want to fight the battle of teaching them how to send a message, but I do want to show them how to receive a message.' They were teaching the customer how to open up picture messages sent from family members back home in Ohio."
About 52 percent of the roughly 226 million cell phone users across the country sent a text message in 2006, according to JupiterResearch. That is up considerably from 44 percent the previous year.
The growth is expected to continue through 2011, when six out of every 10 wireless users will be texting, according to JupiterResearch.
Although most of that growth is being fueled by the constant back-and-forth chatting of teens, there are plenty of ways adults are getting in on the action.
Consider: American Airlines is testing the idea of letting customers text-message complaints to the airline.
Travelocity and other travel sites alert travelers to flight changes with a text message.
Gorham gets his list of appointments for the day automatically text-messaged to his phone every morning at 6.
AT&T sponsored the cell phone voting for American Idol, which resulted in 64.5 million text messages sent in 2006.
When the pop singer Fergie recently performed a private concert at the Verizon Wireless store in Southlake, Texas, the company sent tickets to its customers' cell phones. Verizon customers had to show their phone to get in.
Verizon launched a site called vtext.com that lets Verizon customers send multiple text messages to other Verizon customers at once.