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Mo' Bill-ity

Thu Sep 19, 2002 - 7:05 PM EDT - By James Hromadka

I have been using the Treo 270 for a while now, and have been expounding on its conveniences to everyone that I see. Like my PowerBook, it seems to attract attention. People want to have less, not more, and the Treo lets users stop carrying around multiple things.

There is a price to pay for that freedom, however -- SMS charges from US carriers. I have started using SMS messaging, or "texting", more often, and the VoiceStream/ T-Mobile bill proves it. Somehow, T-Mobile thinks I sent almost 3,000 messages last month. At $0.05/msg, my phone bill almost tripled.

So what are your options if you want to really use SMS? -- little if any if you are a high-volume SMS users in the US. Here are your current options:

  • T-Mobile: 50 free incoming, $2.99 for 500 incoming/outgoing. $0.05 otherwise
  • AT&T Wireless: free incoming, $4.99 for 100 outgoing. $0.10 otherwise
  • Cingular: no free messages, $2.99(100)/$5.99(250)/$9.99(500) incoming/outgoing, $0.10 otherwise
  • Orange (UK provider): free incoming, £8 for 120 outgoing (unused rolls over), 10p otherwise
Not knowing the European cellular market, I have no idea how Orange compares with other EU wireless carriers, much less how much a pence is. :-) Out of the US carriers, AT&T is the most reasonable, as there are no charges for incoming messages. That feature will become more important as SMS spam becomes more prevalent. I for one will not be voting for anyone that sends political ads to me without my consent, and I suggest you do the same.

The thing that bothers me the most is that unlike Orange, T-Mobile at least will not let me buy additional increments of messages. Why not? Rolling over unused messages is also a great idea. Perhaps Cingular should follow its roll-over minutes advertising with roll-over messages, because right now Cingular users are paying over three times as much for 500 messages.

There is an excellent September 2, 2002 New York Times article regarding SMS texting, and how it has not taken off in the US like it has elsewhere in the world. I believe it. Most Americans do not know about SMS or its benefits -- It is not kosher to talk on the phone while using the restroom or watching a movie, but SMS on a muted phone does not disturb anyone!

It will take products like the Treo to give SMS better visibility, but products do not create markets -- markets create products. There is a current commercial for T-Mobile expounding on how it gives customers "more." I want more SMS from US companies, not more bills.

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