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TTYL: Less Talking, More Texting

Cell phones are still the ultimate communication tool, but their usage has changed dramatically.

Talking is so old fashioned, texting is far more efficient and its popularity is exploding.

Americans sent over 110 BILLION texts in 2008, more than double the year-earlier numbers. According to the Census Bureau 270 million cell phone subscribers in the US sent an average of 400 plus text messages each. And no surprise, teenagers are driving the trend. Teens send more than 2,000 texts on average every month!

Texting could be an even bigger phenomenon — and business — than the Census Bureau says. The CTIA, the wireless carrier organization, says texting is expanding seven times faster than the Bureau reports. But even the Census Bureau numbers are impressive. The organization also reports that all the typing has reduced talking. These days mobile calls on average last just over 2 minutes, the shortest they've been since the 1990s before cell phones became ubiquitous.

So what does this mean for companies? Consumers aren't paying carriers AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile any more. The average monthly cell phone bill is flat at around $50.

Business is also flat for the handset makers this year. Gartner reports that global sales of handsets are expected to be flat this year. The good news is that next year, driven by strong performance of smart phones, growth is expected to return to the sector.

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Texting may be more popular than ever, but it's dangerous behind the wheel, and companies and local governments are taking note. Chrysler forbids employees from texting while driving and Boston City Council just approved a measure that would ban texting while driving. But, it is hard to catch people tapping away behind the wheel. I bet no amount of regulation will prevent this trend from growing.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.