Another reason to stick with the old hardware

AT&T decided to change the data plan rates with the second gen iPhone. The data plan I have with my first gen is a flat $30 a month charge that includes 200 SMS text messages month. I’m not a big text user, so that is more than enough.

The new plan doesn’t include SMS text messaging. It’s $30 a month pluse $0.20 per SMS text message. That’s coming and going. Someone sends you a text and you are tossing two dimes in the jar for your next bill. To get that 200 messages a month, AT&T now charges $5 a month.

AT&T isn’t alone in this price gouging. Most of the other US cell phone carriers are doing similar Evil to their customer basis.

Why is it Evil? IMNSHO, it is because a SMS text message is just data traffic. No different from sending an email from your phone. Hell, even your voice traffic (i.e. old school phone calls ) is just data traffic now.

The cell phone carriers are charging more for SMS text messages because kids are sending them more than crack addicts are looking for their next fix.

As one pundit (either Leo Leporte or Glenn Reynolds I think) put it, his daughter views her cell phone as primarily a texting device that can, in a pinch, be used to actually talk to people not hip enough to text.

One of my kids had just over 350 text messages on his monthly bill. That’s incoming as well as outgoing, and he claims he isn’t a heavy text user. At $0.20 a pop, 350 text messages translates to an additional $70 on your bill. All of a sudden, paying an additional $5 or $20 a month for a texting package isn’t so bad.

Unless you keep in mind the words of Malcolm X, “When someone sticks a knife six inches into your back, and then pulls it out two inches and claims he’s doing you a favor, don’t believe him.”

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13 Responses

  1. As someone at the age of the first great computer revolution(IE somebody who grew up with PC’s), I still don’t understand the appeal of Text messages over conventional phone usage. About the only time I see them as useful is when a conventional phone isn’t useful(IE in the middle of nightclub with music blaring) or when it’s inappropriate(in an office meeting).

    But then, I don’t like Instant Messaging either – I much prefer Email..

  2. I’m a parent and have successfully survived three teenagers, so that experience will have some effect on my theory on the subject.

    First, why IM over email? One reason is that these kids are the ‘short attention span theater’ generation. Instant gratification is the name of the game.

    Why texting over talking? A couple of reasons. One is that texting is a “secure back channel” form of communications. If you are in the back seat of the family car, talking on your phone, the parent(s) in the front can hear your half of the conversation. This can lead to life threateningly embarrassing questions like “Who was that?” “When is Susie/Billy coming over to house?” or even worse, “He/She is very cute. Why aren’t you two dating?”

    Texting cuts the parents out of the loop and protects the teens need for utter and complete privacy from their parents, who are obviously out to utterly destroy any chance they have for a social life.

    Texting also doesn’t require the immediate response that a voice based conversation does. The teen can answer other text/IM messages, change their Internet radio feed, etc., before answering someone, without that embarrassing silence they would experience on a phone call.

    Phone calls are also very linear, one person talking to one person (ya, ya, conference calling, but the ‘rents are cheap and won’t buy all the features every teen wants). With texting, the teen can communicate with several other teens at the same time without the hangup, dial, repeat cycle.

  3. So it basically confirms my previous suspicion that teenagers are either underhanded/stupid or quite probably both.

    If you need “discrete” or non time sensistive, there’s email. Otherwise it’s conventional voice communication – one thing grossly overlooked is actually hearing somebody conveys alot more information based on how one sounds – Without Emoticons, for instance, Sarcasm can’t be subtle with mere words unless you know ahead of time.

    The obsession with Text only seems to be with people younger than 25. One of my friends only recently got into doing it regularly because he started dating a younger girlfriend.

    To me, it seems like it’s just another way to squeeze money out of idiots for a redundant service.

  4. You seemed to have grokked my initial post quiet well.

    “The cell phone carriers are charging more for SMS text messages because kids are sending them more than crack addicts are looking for their next fix.”

    Keep in mind that not all phones support email, especially the cheap ones you buy your kids, but they do support SMS text. That gives the kids the always on, non-verbal mobile communication they want, without the crackberry dad won’t buy them.

    SMS is actually old technology. When I was at a carrier class VoIP company in the late 90’s – early 00’s, sales reps from Europe told it that SMS text messaging was very popular there. Not just kids, but adults as well.

    The example given was that during a meeting, of VP level executives mind you, there would be a two layer conversation going on. Verbal, and texting between various members.

    The cell carriers are going to milk this cash cow as long as they can. The end is already in sight, IMO. With 3G phones becoming more common, people will start to use non SMS chat programs on their phones to bypass the excess fees. (remember the part about “the ‘rents are cheap and won’t buy all the features every teen wants”). One carrier will start bundling SMS back into the data package and the others will need to follow suit.

  5. I give it another 2 years tops – all but the cheapest phones these days seem to have Web access in one form or another, and it’s only a matter of time before somebody makes a phone specific(IE nonresource hog) IM system, if such software doesn’t exist already. Add in features like the ability to embed data(video, MP3, photos). What gets me is the data plans haven’t gotten cheaper – they seem to all be stuck at a minimum of 30 bucks a month. What they should come out with is a “limited bandwidth” plan, for say, $10/month, that limites you to 50 megs or less, because let’s face it, alot of us would love to get it, but wouldn’t use anywhere near the limits of most plans, mostly we’d use it for email, directions, etc.

  6. That is not some bad crystal ball gazing. The carriers are fighting it. Verizon in particular is very possessive of their equipment. They are very controlling over how data gets on and off their phones, much more so than AT&T/Apple. Scary, but true. They only way to get ringtone on a Verizon phone is to use their network and pay their fees. The only way to get pictures off their phones is to use their network.

    It would take an open browser on basic cell phones that would allow access to open IM and VoIP sites. I don’t expect that from Verizon anytime soon.

    Somebody else is going to have to open the market up, perhaps if Google opens up their own cell carrier network as the rumors state.

    Ya, it’s just a matter of time before the model changes. The current cell carriers are going to have come up with a new revenue model to deal with the change.

  7. It’s a shame about Verizons Paranoia – I’ve found them to have the best network in terms of reception and coverage – Sprint, Cingular/AT&T don’t even come close.

    What I forsee is one of the varios companies now broadcasting Wireless to realize they can break into the local Cellular market by some basic technology – Imagine Skype wireless phones that take PCMCIA Broadband access cards..

  8. Who sells most of the PCMCIA (or USB) broadband access cards? Mostly the cell phone carriers like Verizon or AT&T.

    Until the monthly fees on those cards drop, its cheaper to have a phone.

    As networks become more pervasive and ubiquitous, prices will drop and the carriers should become less prone for charging different rates for identical data packets.

    The market will change in the next few years. Exactly how and when is tricky part.

  9. I dunno about becoming “more pervasive” – have you seen Verizons coverage maps lately?

    I think it’s basically hit saturation – and the Wireless Telcos are squeezing what they can before it turns cutthroat. All it takes is one little nudge, and they’ll start slashing their prices to gain market share. Look what happened to regular unlimited phone coverage – it was pricey, but then Skype and Vonage hit the scene.. It wasn’t even much a threat to their market share, but Verizon slashed their price almost in half – it’s now down to $35/month for nationwide long distance.. All it’s gonna take is one player, probably a minor one, to cut their rates, and then it’s gonna turn into a price war.

  10. The problem with Verizon’s coverage is that it’s not GSM. They may be the last major CDMA company in the US.

    Locally, in the Boston Metro area, I personally have seen better coverage from AT&T than from Verizon. Your mileage may vary.

    The voice market has be come price driven, with large minute allotments more and more common. I think we are in agreement that the same will happen to data rates in time.

  11. Most of my friends have Verizon – at least one regularly travels all over the Northeast and Midwest on business. And the reception he gets is quite good.

    His brother had a Cingular phone and had nothing but aggravation.

    Verizon isn’t the last(Sprint Also uses it). In fact, of the Big 3, only AT&T uses it. Verizon is also by far the largest, both in terms of coverage and market share.

  12. As I said, your mileage may vary. One of friend out in central MA has zero Verizon coverage, but good AT&T coverage.

    In the town I live in, I have people cursing their phones and interrupting my phone conversations to ask what service I use.

    CDMA is a US legacy protocol. The rest of the world is GSM. If you do any sort of international travel, you can keep using your phone. Ya, it costs more, but it is your number. If you are on a legacy CDMA system, you have to rent or otherwise obtain a GSM phone.

    If Verizon or Sprint had a GSM option, they could compete with AT&T for the international market. Some competition there would be a good thing.

  13. […] price of texting Posted on December 28, 2008 by Mark Urbin I’ve posted before about my opinion of cell phone text messaging the prices the carriers charg…. Here’s the short form, it’s a major profit center for the carriers.  They are […]

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