There is no shortage of options when it comes to communicating with a modern smartphone. There are literally hundreds – likely even thousands – of different ways to communicate.
There’s the voice call, which is no longer a staple in mobile communication for many. And there is an endless supply of different IP messengers available, free of charge, depending on what mobile OS you use. There’s email, for the more traditional feel of correspondence. And there are several popular social networking sites around the Web that are (generally) easy to access via mobile and, likewise, great for staying in touch.
More options and services are being added, upgraded, and improved every day.
But there’s one communication method that just won’t die, no matter how archaic and simple. Text messaging. Also known as the Short Message Service (SMS), native text messaging is offered by wireless providers around the globe. What makes it so useful is the universal nature of the service. All you need to know is someone’s wireless number and you can send them a message of up to 160 characters, regardless of what type of phone they have, its operating system, or what provider they use.
Often referred to as “picture messaging”, the Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is just as universal, allows more characters, and, as the name implies, allows the sending of multimedia. You can send short audio clips, small video files, and pictures. It, too, only requires a mobile number.
Most people you will come across with a smartphone not only pay for their voice service and data, but also SMS and MMS. It’s easy, (almost) everyone uses it, and most consider it cheap – or at least not too expensive.
What’s another $20? I’m already paying too much, and I’ll use it all the time anyway. It’s hard not to justify.
But this is 2013, and believe it or not, SMS and MMS are not cheap. In fact, they’re anything but cheap. Text messaging is, by and large, one of the most overpriced services offered by wireless providers. It’s a cash cow, and the thousands of IP messengers, especially those with more weight to throw around, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, iMessage or even Google Hangouts, pose a serious threat to wireless providers’ top end.
But why did I quit using carrier text messaging almost one year ago? And why should you consider doing the same? Let’s approach SMS mathematically.
With Verizon, unlimited text messaging costs $20 per month for an individual, or $30 per month for a family plan. If you do not have a messaging plan, however, you pay $0.20 per incoming and outgoing message (and $0.25 per MMS). So for an exchange of, say, 10 messages between two people, the total cost for you would be $2. If the other person also had no messaging plan, they, too, would have racked up $2 in messaging fees.
So for every person who sends text messages without a messaging plan, the carriers double-dip and charge both parties for messages, coming and going.
Hypothetically, let’s say you continued the conversation until you both had sent and received a total of 1,000 text messages. At the per text rate, that equates to $200 for both parties. That’s not an unreasonable amount to messaging for a less-than-average user, considering the monthly average for cell phone users ages 18 to 24 in 2011 was over 3,200 texts messages, or 109.5 messages per day.
What if you were to use only instant messenger services to send those same 1,000 messages on an average of $10 per gigabyte?
Each SMS translates to a maximum of 0.137KB, or 0.000134MB (remember, 1,024KB is equal to 1MB), so for the sake of the argument, we’ll assume each SMS sent and received was the full 160 characters. If you multiply that by the number of messages (1,000), you will have used approximately 0.134MB of data. Charged at a rate of $10 per gigabyte, that equates to a total cost of $0.001.
That’s right. On a tiered data plan with Verizon, it would cost you one tenth of a penny to send and receive 1,000 instant messages, provided the average size of the messages is around 160 characters. To send the same number of messages using SMS without a plan, it would cost 200,000 times as much.
It’s not exact math, since instant messages are handled differently than SMS. And, yes, most people who text a significant amount of messages per month likely have a messaging plan, meaning there is a solid counterargument. But it should suffice as a testament as to why I canceled my text messaging plans and switched solely to Google Voice for my SMS needs and Google Talk, iMessage and Facebook Messenger for everything else. They cost nothing to use and only take tiny sips from the data plan you’re already paying for.
Why pay $5, $10, $20, or $30 per month for a messaging service that can be (rather easily) supplemented by the data plan you’re forced to purchase anyway? Why pay extra for a service that really hasn’t changed or improved in nearly 20 years? Instant messengers offer several improvements, such as larger resolution picture sharing, cross-platform group messaging, read receipts with a typing indicator, and much more. Not to mention, I can carry the exact same conversation over multiple devices (i.e.: iPad, Android smartphone, iPhone, MacBook Pro, etc.).
It’s ludicrous. And wireless providers are trying to mask the overpriced service by offering it as a bundled package with calling minutes or per line access fees for a shared data plan. (Trust me, $100 per month for unlimited voice, unlimited messaging and 2GB of data is not a good deal. Not even close.)
This is why I scrapped carrier text messaging last May and have not looked back. You should at least consider doing the same. Your money is better spent on more data, maybe even food or gas.