Sunday, January 8, 2012

“Don’t Text Me, Ever”

When Reuters looked at text messaging, in the story “Texting profits at risk as users look elsewhere,” it found that phone companies are driving users away by raising fees.

It is a pattern often seen in declining technology. Cable television, for example, still raises its fees every year in spite of the trickle of users leaving for more advanced, less expensive video services. It doesn’t make business sense for business to squeeze their customers in a high-markup business segment, yet this is a pattern we have seen again and again, and there is no sign so far of text messaging doing anything different.

It is bad enough that phone companies don’t offer a way to block text messaging. Now they are eliminating the less expensive text messaging plans designed for people who don’t receive text messages regularly. They are trying to push customers toward the unlimited-use plans, but many customers cannot afford that subscription fee, typically $20 per month. And so, when phone companies take an all-or-nothing, my-way-or-the-highway approach to text messaging, they are pushing customers faster into the “don’t text me, ever” camp.

It may already be too late, though, for phone companies to turn text messaging into something that fits their customers’ needs. We are likely to see big changes this year as the purchase price of an unsubsidized smart phone falls below $100. When people notice it costs less to have a smart phone than to send and receive text messages, text messages will lose their cool factor. As 2012 starts, text messaging can still pass for high technology, but by the time the year is over, people will be apologizing for their lack of up-to-date technology skills when they have to send text messages.