Article: What iMessage Really Means

by on June 9, 2011

If you read our site, you’ve no doubt heard of one of Apple’s new features in iOS 5, known as iMessage. Essentially, it’s a messaging protocol based on XMPP, which means it’s a cousin to Jabber and Push Notifications, but to the end user, it works like SMS or MMS messages. Unlike FaceTime, which is cool, but only used by certain folks on a regular basis, I suspect this might get a lot of use, even by me, a self-proclaimed text-avoider.

I’ll use text messaging from time to time, mostly to give/receive a quick update, or to share something with a non-iPhone-using friend. I’m a holdout on AT&T’s $5 for 200 messages plan—it’s not a very good value, but I don’t really want to pay per-message and 1000 messages per month is more than I’d probably use. I do augment this with a Google Voice account with free texting, so many people have two numbers for me. A bit complicated, but I am saving about $60/year (or as I see it, I can keep my grandfathered unlimited data plan with the money I save). Apple’s iMessages may make me banish both texting and Google Voice, and although it sounds crazy, I think I may be better off with iMessages and a texting block on my line (we have it for another line on the plan).

An iUniverse

About 1/2 of the contacts on my iPhone have iPhones, while about 5/6 of people I text regularly have iPhones. Clearly, if they upgrade to iOS 5, I can cut my texting usage to only a few messages per month. Even a few of them have iPod touches or iPads, so I could encourage them to receive my messages that way. What’s left are only a few people, and sadly, not receiving their texts wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Messaging Plans are Obsolete

I’m sure AT&T and Verizon aren’t happy about the news—especially since so many people have iOS devices, they may at least downgrade messaging plans. More importantly, for smartphone users, the text message is a relic of a prior time, when the most sophiticated thing a phone could send or receive was 160 characters or a low-quality image. People keep using them because they’re instant, convenient, and familiar, but don’t really question the amount of data and effort on the network 200 or 1000 messages a month actually uses, especially compared to web browsing, music streaming, or YouTube. I’d love to see the carriers rethink their messaging plans, offering more pooled options for families, smaller blocks of messages (AT&T recently killed their 200/$5 plan), or even roll it into a data plan for smartphone users. Although from a technology standpoint, it’s not quite the same, but the actual usage is negligible.

It’s Still a Phone

So, would I actually go through with killing my messaging plan, and possibly putting a texting block on my line? At this point, I’m still toying with the idea, and have a few months to work it out. Over time, it is a considerable savings, and I think if enough people follow, it could send a message to carriers.

Critics say that iMessages are a proprietary protocol, a step backwards from the fairly-open SMS and MMS protocols. While there’s no way to refute this, the majority of my contacts could be reached via iMessages, and for the rest I could gently encourage a phone call or an email…remember those? That’s not too arrogant, is it?

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