May 03, 2012, 1:42 PM —
Text messages literally cost cellular companies next to nothing, to the point where they couldn’t really tell you how much “profit” they make off each message. That’s because text messages are sent through the same “control channel” that your phone is already regularly using to keep contact with nearby cellular towers. So why are carriers still charging customers, especially those with data plans, exorbitant amounts to send 160 characters at a time?
The answer, of course, is that charging something for nothing is hugely profitable, even if that business is starting to fall off. In the meantime, you still need to text message people who have all kinds of different phones, smart or otherwise. Is there no way to stop paying your carrier for Magic Profit Packets?
There are three good ways, actually, to stick it to the by-the-character man.
Get your text-iest friends to use Kik
There are a lot of text-message-like apps out there. The best one to my eyes is Kik Messenger. It’s available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and even Nokia Ovi phones. If all you do is convince your smartphone-touting spouse or best friend to install Kik and use it to message you instead of text you, you’ll cut way, way back on messages, maybe to the point where you don’t need an all-in-one plan. Kik uses your data plan to send text, links, emoticons, and even pictures back and forth, which is just how messaging should work in 2012.
But Kik is not a make-do service for the SMS-averse–it’s actually better. It shows delivery and read receipts, so you know when someone has picked up your message, or needs to be pinged again. It does a great job of compressing photos down so they transmit quickly, but take up very little data from your plan. And it’s a great tool for maintaining a conversation with a group of people, whom you can find and add through your address book, or your Facebook or Twitter log-ins.