Pundits I’ve decided are largely short-sighted. You’d think after writing about the mobile industry for years and years, and the tech industry for just as long, they would start to get the bigger picture of things. Case in point: Apple announced iMessages as a key portion of its upcoming iOS 5. Many of the people covering this are saying how it will kill the carriers revenue from already overpriced SMS plans. Whoop-dee-doo.

These people are looking at it the wrong way. Smart carriers will be annoyed in the short term with Apple’s move (which was apparently news to them as well), but love it long term. So with iMessages you no longer will need to pay $10-15/month for an unlimited SMS plan, as you’ll be able to chat free with your iOS buddies (200Million of them worldwide by the way). You’re going to effectively be locked in to iOS the same way your wall street cousin was locked in to Blackberry Messenger for the last 10 years. Many, many, many people kept using and buying Blackberries SOLELY for BBM capabilities, those people now have a decent reason to quit and jump ship to iOS devices.

So the carrier sees you cancel your $10/month SMS plan, that sucks for them in the short term, but now that you’re locking yourself into a long term play with iPhone for iMessenger, you aren’t going to consider switching to a feature phone or even an Android next. So you’re going to keep paying that $30-40/month for your unlimited data. So $120/year from SMS (which realistically people won’t cancel SMS entirely, but will drop to cheaper plans, say $60/year) gone, but $360-480/year in data fees locked in. Not such a bad situation to be in for the carriers.

They could have been screwed by Apple much worse if Apple had been so inclined.

2 Comments

  1. iamrobtoast

    i want to start by saying that BBM is wayyyy over rated and that i think most of its appeal is based on the fact that it gives Blackberry users one last thing to hang on to, especially with the cliquey air of exclusivity in that its strictly for BBM users. however i think you are (perhaps intentionally?) overlooking something here, BBM loyalty is based on the effective service provided and also also the community still using BBM. It goes unsaid that iMessages will not be able to interact with BBM services, thus breaking the connection BBM users had to their BBM community. the other thing that came to mind was that there have been cross-platform apps doing this for a bit now, namely kik and ping. granted, they werent as polished or advanced as iMessages, but they certainly could be soon, and they got the job done on devices outside the iOS realm. 

    sure, im glad that i can probably say goodbye to my unlimited text plan, but ill still need a text plan and 200 messages per month wasnt that much cheaper than unlimited to my recollection, so the savings arent really there. were talking 10-15 a month. for example, ATT to ATT calls are free regardless of what device you are using, and now you can even video chat with other smart phones on any network (also free), but you still have minutes on your cell plan, lots of them im sure, right? so, yes, you could be super diligent about who you text and how, but you will never eliminate text communication outside the iOS realm. oh, and now you will now have to ask everyone for their new me addresses. its not going to be quite as plug and play as they make it seem. 

    a lot of what they were saying yesterday in regards to the other new features they unveiled was “there is no new app for you to learn how to use”. well, in this instance that doesnt seem to be the case, right? what i would have liked to see apple do, is something along the lines of what facebook was talking about a few months ago in creating an end all be all messaging center. texts, emails, facebook messages, iMessages, all in one place. iMessages is creating yet another medium for people to send me messages and i am left wondering wether somebody tweeted me a comment, or did i read that comment tweet in my email inbox? or was it a mention on instagram? or was it a text? it would have been really nice if they had iMessages absorb the entire texting interface on the phone, perhaps even capable of combining conversation threads of iMessages and SMS’s between the same person. if i have your  @me and your phone number in my contacts, there seems to be no reason why that isnt possible. im hoping that new swipe down interface they stole from android will be able to help with that (that was well overdue)

    in a perfect cellular world, carriers would quit their shenanigans and acknowledge the fact that SMS or even MMS data transfer is insignificant for phones that are already otherwise streaming HD videos and surfing the web for hours. if im paying 30/month for internet services on my device, dont nickel and dime me for another $20 for unlimited texts. the marginal increase in data transfer just isnt there to justify the cost. solution: text plans only for those neanderthals who dont already have data plans. sorry, cave people.

    sorry for the rant, i am 100% an apple fanboy, and im stoked on the new iMessages, but i really dont think its going to change much. i also havent had anybody to talk about phones and apple with for a while so i guess i had a lot to say hahaha hope youre well and that the heat isnt too bad yet!

  2. Rob, you’re correct on the BBM lock in, these people still have high switching costs. You’re also correct on the fact we’re getting overcharged for what amounts to less than 1MB of data for HEAVY SMS use. If I recall SMS carries in an unused portion of the cellular bandwidth anyway, so it was pure profit for the carriers.

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