iMessage vs SMS/MMS messaging and text + data plans | iLounge Article


iMessage vs SMS/MMS messaging and text + data plans

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Q: My wife and I have new iPhone 5’s on Verizon with unlimited SMS/MMS but are on a metered, shared data plan. So for us it’s most economical to turn iMessage off and just use SMS/MMS. However, our friends with iPhones mostly are on older, unlimited data/metered messaging plans, so it’s more considerate for us to use iMessage with them than SMS/MMS. The aggravation is remembering to change the setting depending on who we’re messaging. Plus it doesn’t help our friends if we’ve turned iMessage off for ourselves and they message us, because then we force them to pay for SMS, by accident. Is there a contact-dependent switcher app out there or some other slicker solution? With the new crop of plans combining unlimited talk + text with metered data the current implementation of iMessage seems like a no-win situation.

- Carl

A: Unfortunately, there isn’t really any way to configure the iPhone to only use iMessage when sending to specific contacts, as this is a decision that iOS makes on its own based primarily on whether the phone number that you are sending to is registered with Apple’s iMessage network.

iMessage uses a minuscule amount of data compared to what a typical data plan offers, however, so you very likely don’t need to worry too much about using iMessage unless you have an extremely limited data plan or you regularly send photos and videos via the Messages app. Unlike SMS/MMS messaging, however, iMessage also works over Wi-Fi, so whenever you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network you’re not using any cellular data at all.

To put this into perspective, a typical single iMessage will usually use about 1-2 kilobytes, or about 1000-2000 bytes of data, depending on how much text you’re sending. By comparison, the smallest shared data plan available on Verizon right now is 1 GB per month, which translates to roughly one billion bytes of information. This would allow you to send an impossible number of iMessages per month—between 500,000 and 1,000,000—before you would even get close to your data plan. Even if you’re still on one of the older 150MB or 200MB data plans, this still equates to well over 100,000 iMessages—that’s over two iMessages per minute, every minute of every day for an entire month. A more typical text messaging user may send about 1,000 texts per month, which would only eat up about 1-2MB of your data plan.

That said, your data usage may be of some concern if you send a lot of photos or videos through iMessage. One advantage of iMessage over MMS is that photos are sent in their full resolution, meaning a typical iPhone photo will consume about 2-3 MB of data. Videos will be compressed somewhat, and will consume about 6 MB of data per minute of video, but are still presented in a resolution far superior to the 160x120 typically used by MMS. These numbers can obviously add up if you regularly do this using a cellular data connection, but remember that iMessages also uses Wi-Fi whenever available, which will not count against your Verizon data plan allotment at all.

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I can’t understand people still paying the high prices to the Verizon’s, AT&Ts;, Sprint’s of the world for metered anything.
What is it? That we get so comfortable that we just can’t get the desire to switch?For you folks, remember this. There are only four big cell companies in the US. They own the networks.

Today there are dozens of resellers of those four big cell companies services using the named companies network. What does that mean? That if you find a cheap plan that uses the Verizon network, you get the same network, same coverage as if you were still directly signed up with an expensive Verizon plan.

With that out of the way, for less than $50 dollars per month, you have dozens of MVNO (virtual providers) that are using the big four networks, with plans that actually give you unlimited everything. Yes, you heard that right. A better plan, cheaper, same coverage, same network, than the one you have now, sometimes 1/3 of the price.
I know that some people have a hard time believing this, or understanding it, or that they have signed a two year contract, etc.
Just keep it in mind next time you are ready to sign another two year plan. Research the different companies out there doing this type of business. Some of them are even a division of one of the big four.
But that’s only iif you want to save some money, because you surely can. Your bill can go from $115 to $45 per month. But if you have extra cash to give away to the big corps, well, that’s your right as an independent American. LOL.

Posted by Eduardo Cruz on July 24, 2013 at 9:06 PM (CDT)


The whole point of text messages is cheap and fast. It was invented to replace phone calls.  35 cents vs 10 cents.  1 minutes vs. 10 seconds. 

Data plans were invented for communication via email over cellular networks and internet browsing.  Large packages and download times, controlled by individuals based on need-to-know basis (i.e. informed consent).  People budget and buy data for what is was intended, not to replace normal telecommunications. iMessage is 10-times heavier than standard SMS for the same information exchange. Why would someone pay for 10-times more for communication requirements, or give up e-mail data so they can have overweight apple messaging? Even an email is cheaper and just as fast as an apple iMessage. It’s a technological joke on consumers.

Apple has conveniently thrown out the common case to sell a proprietary incompatible system by twisting the logic and marketing a false dependency to the masses.  Instead of fixing a broken design to work intelligently with common standards, Apple (they own iOS and all it’s code) can easily allow you to define transport protocols for your friends to solve this problem; they simply don’t care enough about our needs to do so. 

As long as consumers are willing to make excuses for them and pay the price and extra work, Apple doesn’t have to do diddly squat.  With $60 billion of cash they are sitting on, fixing this problem is so small it wouldn’t even put a dent in their coffers. They simply don’t care about implementation details as much as glitz and marketable hype that can be used to sell you more stuff.

Posted by Thomas on January 3, 2014 at 12:52 PM (CST)

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