¶ Streamlining

Late last night Engadget scooped a story that AT&T would be "streamlining" its messaging plans. AT&T last did this about 8 months ago.

Back then, they offered 200 messages/month for $5, 1500 for $15 and unlimited for $20. Their first streamlining nixed the $5 and $15 plans in favor of 1000 messages/month for $10, and left the $20 unlimited plan untouched.

As of 21 August, AT&T will be streamlining further to just the $20 unlimited plan and then having pay per message at the rates of 20¢ per SMS and 30¢ per MMS.

Ben Brooks takes a fairly positive outlook:

…before the customer had to guess how many messages they will be sending, with the new plan the message is clear, “do you plan on sending text messages or not”.

And he's right, overall, that is a good thing. My wife and I each have the old 200 messages at $5 per month. We're light texters. Granted, I do come close every month to going over my limit (and have a few times in the past three years). And it sucks having to keep an eye on the meter.

Thankfully, Apple's iMessage service is just around the corner. I know that most of the people I text have iPhones, so those messages will circumvent AT&T's messaging service altogether. This should enable my wife and I to stay on the 200 message plan until AT&T eventually kicks us off.

I think what bothers me the most about this streamlining is the price. $20 a month has been and continues to be outrageous for messaging. And for two people, the $30 family unlimited plan isn't that great. If this announcement was accompanied by a reduction in the price of unlimited, it would look much better. Instead it looks a little greedy.

Let's face it, SMS takes very little bandwidth. MMS takes a little more. But at the end of the day, it is all just bits. Why isn't messaging lumped into our data plans by now? Seriously, we're on metered data plans now, 200 MB or 2 GB, depending on what you pay for. Why not just take our messaging off of that? That is essentially what Apple will be doing with iMessage if you aren't connected to Wi-Fi.

Simplification of choice is nice, and having the choices be per message or unlimited is great. But the cost of the difference is incredible. As for me, I'll be staying on my ancient messaging plan until I am forced to change, and I will be patiently waiting for iMessage to roll out.