Is the Phone Call an Outmoded Communication Tool?

The debate may have switched from “is cold calling dead” to “is the phone call in general dead” for agency new business.

A growing number of persons consider phone calls to be interrupting and annoying. The phone call is rapidly fading as a generation of e-mailing, followed by an explosion in texting and social media, has pushed the telephone conversation into serious decline.

TechCrunch writer, Alexia Tsotsis, recently wrote an insightful article that has been stirring a lot of debate, “The Phone Call is Dead.”

She writes,

“Less obsolete but more annoying than a handwritten letter, the phone call is fading as a mode of communication even if the nostalgic will be singing its praises for a while.”

While Alexia points out that to say something is dead in the tech industry, actually means it’s on the decline, she provides some good points regarding the fall of the call, I’ve also included some of additional data on this topic:

  • We reached a breaking point in 2008 when text messaging topped mobile phone calling in usage, and we’ve been living in a world dominated by text-based communication ever since.
  • According to Nielsen data, voice usage has been dropping in every age group except for those past the of age of 54.
  • 78 percent of teens recognize the functionality and convenience of SMS, considering it easier (22 percent) and faster (20 percent) than voice calls.
  • Voice activity has decreased 14 percent among teens, who average 646 minutes talking on the phone per month.
  • Interest in voice calling is now sharply differentiated by age, and few technological advancements have ever survived while failing to capture the interest of 22 year olds.
  • The fall of the call is driven by 18 to 34-year-olds, whose average monthly voice minutes have plunged from about 1,200 to 900 in the past two years, research by Nielsen shows.
  • iPhone users (and to greater extent smartphone users in general) are not primarily using our phones to make calls.
  • We now have access to a plethora of free, internet-based calling options like Google Voice.
  • Not only are people making fewer calls, but they are also having shorter conversations when they do call. The average length of a cell phone call has dropped from 2.38 minutes in 1993 to 1.81 minutes in 2009, according to industry data.
  • Between 2005 and 2009, as the number of minutes people spent talking on cell phones inched up, the number of cellphone messages containing text or multimedia content ballooned by 1,840 percent.
  • Cellphone industry group CTIA saw text messaging double from June 2008 to June 2009, when Americans sent a staggering 135.2 billion text messages, and its data backs up the idea that voice is declining.
  • Land lines are disappearing. Verizon, the country’s second-largest land line carrier after AT&T, says its hard-wired phone connections have dropped from 50 million in 2005 to 31 million this year.

“The fundamental way we people communicate is just about to change again,” said Delly Tamer, CEO of Letstalk, which sells a variety of cellphones. “We humans will now start to rely less on our mouths and more on our heads and our fingers.”

Alexia Tsotsis, is LA Weekly’s internet culture reporter, and then as SF Weekly’s web editor. Before she joined TechCrunch, she ran the website while staying on top of memes, the tech scene, and human behavior in the digital age. Read here entire article: “The Phone Call is Dead.”

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Hi,

    I find this idea pretty strange. It may be true in social contacts but I rarely get text messages from business contacts. The speed and pace of business (and the details) usually require a phone call, even if it is a short one.

    I often get tired of emailing back and forth and opt for a quick phone call. In fact, I now start off with phone calling as my preference and then handle small follow-ups with emails.

    I don’t buy her premise entirely. I am 35. My social life includes primarily texting but my business life is driven primarily by phone calls and email. For business, the phone call is a LONG way from dead. Texting is not even on the radar.

    I’m also confused by her idea that a handwritten letter is ‘annoying.’

    Maybe she doesn’t like personal communications?


  2. Thanks for your insights Jason. What I’m finding is I don’t get text from prospective clients and clients but a lot of them are contacting me and conversing through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and email. What I found amazing in the data that was shared was the decline of phone usage. I’ve seen that first hand in business and in my personal life.

    Also, I think Alexia’s comment was more about the annoyance of phone calls rather than a personal letter.

    Again, thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Wow! Very interesting article! I can’t believe how sharp the decline in landlines has been over the past 5 years but it makes so much sense!

  4. Another interesting thing to consider, Michael, is that even though phones aren’t used as often by younger audiences, that they could always adapt when they get older and come into the business world. I find it hard to imagine delivering marketing services without speaking over the phone! So much can be lost in communicating via text!

  5. Thank you for your interesting post. Since the telephone was invented hundred years ago, it really bring people convenient for communication. However, the new technology will be challenge for telephone.

  6. Bill Van Cleaf says:

    New technology gives us quick, efficient ways to have conversations. But sometimes hearing someone’s voice is the most effective way to get something done. You can’t type or text anger, a wink, a questioning eyebrow.

    Also, you really can’t dismiss the telephone by citing web calling as the replacement technology. Web or video calls are really the same thing as a phone call, just a different technology making it happen. The impact and intent of the communication is the same as picking up the phone.

  7. DonMedia says:

    I go both ways on this text and particularly email are useful, but sometimes it’s actually quicker to have a quick two way conversation on the phone than it is to play voice mail, email and text tag all day long and still not get all the issues resolved.

  8. Whew this is unique makes me feel a little of age for only being 36 and I have really seen changes up downs and serious declines.Technology has taken over.

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