Google tosses free texting
iPhone app vendors betrayed
Google is pulling access to the XMPP API that allows third-party applications to send SMS messages with the Mountain View chocolate factory footing the bill, much to the annoyance of app developers.
Most notable amongst the companies taking advantage of Google's largess is Innerfence, whose "Infinite SMS" iPhone application was little more than a pretty wrapper for the API that allowed buyers to send SMS messages around the world while Google paid the network operators for the traffic. That was a relationship which was hardly going to last forever.
Innerfence didn't get a lot of notice of the API being pulled, as the company explained: "Our first warning was an unexpected call from Google on Monday, 9 March 2009, indicating that the service might be blocked as soon as the very next day". Innerfence immediately pulled its application from the iTunes store, but those who bought the application prior to that are pretty annoyed to be told it's now useless.
As one buyer put it: "Where is the money that I used to buy this SMS app? I want an explonation[sic] why we shouldn’t get a refund. Make a new app that does the same thing."
Making a new application to send free SMS won't be easy. Sending text messages isn't cheap as Twitter discovered, and while there used to be hundreds of gateways offering free texting in the hope of drawing traffic, Google is one of the last.
Even Google can't keep paying operators without any recompense, and it's issued a statement making it clear that while the API was publicly announced it never emerged from the Google Labs, and therefore third parties shouldn't have bet their business model on it. "While Google is supportive of third party apps, we've decided we can't support this particular usage of our system at this time," it said. "SMS chat is still just an experiment in the early testing stages in Gmail Labs."
Buyers of Infinite SMS should have understood that nothing is free, and if Google can't find a way of turning a profit by paying to carry other people's traffic, then odds are no one else is going to manage either. ®
Will this affect the calendar reminders that the Goog currently sends, incl. to UK mobe numbers
@Russ, and the cost of texts
The description of the mechanics is right, the SMS messages go over the control channel. It's also true that I think the phone cos are charging FAR more than it costs to send and receive texts -- especially ala carte rates.
BUT, the costs are not 0 or near-0.
First, brief info on what goes over the control channel (besides texts..). From phone to cell site, the phone sends info to the site when it's first turned on (or first gets in range of the site), then every 5 to 15 minutes afterwards it sends the same info. This is just so the phone network knows your phone exists. If you make a phone call, your phone sends a request over the control channel. If your phone is ringing and it picks up it sends a request to indicate this as well. From site to your phone, the network sends your phone "you're getting a call, start ringing!" and the caller ID info.
As for why costs are not 0:
1) The control channels can and do overload. Traditionally, the same control channel info would be broadcast by every cell site city-wide. After SMS took off, they started having to split cities into zones, with additional equipment to handle the control of these groups of cell sites for each zone. In the densest areas, they'll have to even add additional control channels to some sites.
2) They have to have equipment to handle and forward all these texts. I hang out a lot on howardfroums.com, late last year alone, there were intermittent delays (of sometimes several hours) with Sprint; AT&T had localized cases of slow or even worse LOST texts. Nextel was basically considered a joke for texting pre-merger with Sprint, I don't know if it's better now. The texting servers or whatever apparently cost enough that they put off upgrading the capacity of them at least for a while.
3) Inter-carrier texting. This all goes through some exchange, which costs. I don't know if they are charged per text, or if they are charged per T1 or whatever. A few months ago, several carriers did not have enough capacity to this exchange, resulting in texts to the same carrier being fast, but minutes to hours delays to other carriers.
4) Spam filters. Some carriers in the US, based on the complaints I read online, clearly do not have a spam filter. I know for sure Verizon brags about theirs, and it seems to work very well. But due to the volume of spam it does filter it is likely rather expensive as well. Again, for a few days last year it backed up and they had to spend extra money on it.
As for US cell phones...
The norm here is to have a bucket of minutes.. either for an individual phone, or on a "family plan" where phones can be added onto it for $10 a line. Texting is also done with buckets of texts, either per line (from $5 for about 250 to about $20 for unlimited texts), or some $20 or so addon that gives unlimited texts for the whole family plan. Free long distance within the US, and free roaming within the US are included, although most companies have a "40% roaming" or "50% roaming" rule in the fine print, so they can drop customers who roam nearly 100% of the time... Verizon specifically does not have this roaming restriction though.
So, SprintPCS does have free incoming texts on some plans. "Old" AT&T Wireless had free incoming texts (but Cingular bought them, then after the merger dragged down Cingular's name a bit, renamed the whole thing AT&T.. *that* AT&T doesn't do free incoming..) US Cellular has free incoming texts *and* free incoming calls. But the norm is for all incoming to come out of your buckets. The flip side, though, *calling* a cell is normal rate (so, from a landline, calling a cell with a local phone number is local, and otherwise the normal long distance rate.)
Free SMS from Russian telecoms
Most Russian operators offer (limited) free SMSs to their subscribers on their websites. It's very handy and very good PR. Is there anything like that in the UK or US or Australia? Unlikely. Idiots.
Here's Beeline's site for example: http://www.beonline.ru/portal/comm/send_sms/simple_send_sms.sms