Chapter 4

American Idol Engages a Nation

In the United States, mobile eventually became more of a must-have consumer device primarily for three reasons: the television talent show American Idol integrated text into its voting process in 2003 during its second season; text messaging was made available as a cross-carrier product, allowing cell phone users to reach anyone with a mobile device with a messaging capability regardless of the mobile operator that the subscriber chose; and Motorola introduced what became the best-selling RAZR, a clamshell phone that was thin, capable, and an instant fashion statement.

Ten years after the world’s first commercial text message was sent by employees of LogicaCMG, just how dramatic was texting’s growth because of American Idol, which had become one of TV’s highest-rated shows?

More than 7.5 million American Idol-related text messages were sent by AT&T Wireless customers throughout the 2003 season, including polls, sweepstakes entries, trivia, and votes, according to numbers released by the carrier. More than one-third of all participants had never even sent a text message as an AT&T Wireless customer before American Idol. The number of text votes received increased by nearly 5,000 percent from the first voting episode to the last voting episode. More than 2,300 text messages per second were processed at one point during the voting.

American Idol eventually stopped breaking out its vote totals by text versus online. By the end of Season 10 in ...

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