From an article in the March 2nd Economist: Getting the message:
Americans have finally embraced texting. What took them so long?
... America's apathy towards texting was easy to explain. Voice calls on mobile phones are cheaper than in other countries, which gives cost-conscious users less incentive to send texts instead; several different and incompatible wireless technologies are in use, which made sending messages from one network to another unreliable or impossible; and texting was often an additional service that subscribers had to sign up for. As a result, the number of messages sent per subscriber per month was just over seven in December 2002, compared with a global average of around 30.
But things have since changed, with that figure rising to 13 in December 2003, 26 in December 2004, and 38 in June 2005, the most recent date for which figures are available from the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, an industry body. So America has now overtaken Germany, Italy and France in its enthusiasm for texting.
Just a note in case you hadn't updated your world view in a while: Americans have 200MM mobile phone subscribers, have higher ARPUs than just about any country except a few in Asia, and send more text messages per subscriber than much of Europe. (We also have things most Europeans can only dream about - like inexpensive flat-rate data plans). Mobile is so strong in the U.S. that T-Mobile USA is actually the number one reason that Deutsche Telecom is making a profit - and T-Mo is the smallest of the big four operators here.
It's an amusing article, really... The fact that we "get" texting now is really just a small sign of a much bigger trend.