There’s many cartels left in the world that artifically inflate prices. Today we’re going to talk about SMS. It doesn’t take higher mathematics to realize that SMS as data transfer is hundreds of time more expensive (at 5 cents per 140-or-less characters) than cell data as data (at 10 cents per 100 kilobytes). That the phone companies are ripping people off is hardly a surprise, but in the dumb phone market, SMS reigns supreme. And since the cell companies determine what dumb phones are available to you, this may not change for some time.
News arrived (via Slashdot) yesterday that Facebook bought a company that did some form of social messaging; which, the author said, could open the door to Facebook making a challenge to the SMS market due largely to the relative cheapness of data plans as compared to SMS plans. Additionally, Facebook could then offer audio/voice, picture and video messaging since all data is just data.
Many cell phone users, even those with so-called “dumb” phones have been able to send pictures, audio and even video for some time. The service is layered on top of SMS and is often called MMS or Multmedia Message Service. The reason many of you many not even know this is that when you’ve tried to send pictures from your phone it would have notified you that your carrier may be charging you extra — and since people are so well trained to be scared of extra charges from their phone carrier, most of you would have just forgot about it (and not sent the picture).
Or maybe you, like me, already had a somewhat “smart” phone and decided that it was probably cheaper to email the picture, video or sound clip than risk opening your pocket to the “evil” phone company. In fact, I’ve been doing that for going-on 10 years now. My first somewhat smart phone was the Treo 600 and it had sophisticated enough email to send small attachments (like pictures). Until very lately, I ‘ve relied fairly heavily on SMS to keep in touch … especially with the parental units whose phones are dumb and likely staying that way.
Lately, however, I’ve been using Google’s chat over my cell-internet connection more often than not. It’s portable and works well on both my computers and my phone. It manages text and allows both voice and video calling. It’s somewhat integrated with google’s mail to allow files to be sent. The only improvement I could suggest to Google is to add file transfer to the base client directly.
Phone companies are already loosing control of the subscribers they hold so dear. I’m pretty sure this is one of the reasons they’re desperately trying to make their networks seem more valuable by artificial scarcity. People can already move their phone numbers around. It’s even possible to make “phone” calls without a phone number through google, skype and there is also even a standard that would allow anyone to do it (supported by a surprising number of IP phone hardware). One of the major things keeping people buying phones from the members of the SMS cartel is the ubiquity of the phone number, but there will come a tipping point as the next generation uses primarily non-phone-number means of contacting people.
MMS is just one more stumble caused by too much greed.