AT&T’s New SMS Messaging Plans Are A Scam Right Out Of Mordor [Updated]

AT&T’s New SMS Messaging Plans Are A Scam Right Out Of Mordor [Updated]

It isn’t a secret that SMS messaging has always been a ripoff since cellular companies charge excessive fees to transport a tiny insignificant amount of data on their network. Now AT&T is going for your money by killing off their $10 messaging plan that includes 1,000 text messages and what do you get? You get the shaft.

AT&T will stick it to you by allowing you to choose from AT&T’s new “streamlined” messaging plans: $20 for unlimited messaging or go without a plan and pay $0.20 per SMS message.  We’d like to call it what it is — a big scam and one you should refuse to accept.

It all starts next week when AT&T will begin to offer the $20 unlimited messaging plan and the pay as you text plan. It is plain crazy when you look at the numbers involved and Gizmodo laid those out perfectly and according to them it basically breaks down like this:

You can spend $25 for 2GB of mobile data which they claim ends up being about 80MB per dollar which then translates to 500,000 text messages each 160 characters long. We’ll bet you seldom hit the 160 character mark which makes this even worse. Now take that dollar and divide it by the number of texts and each one probably costs $0.000002 or two ten thousandths of a cent. That isn’t very much. If you send 5,000 texts in month then those texts cost about $0.01 – a penny.

If you go with the pay as you text plan your 5,000 text messages end up costing you $1,000. That’s a serious amount of cash and obviously what AT&T really wants is all of it’s customers on the $20 plan. Gravy train for them, but their customer’s end up paying more or not getting any real value out of their $20.

In all fairness there isn’t a carrier that doesn’t over charge for text messaging, but unlike AT&T many of these other carriers offer tiered plans to meet their customer’s budgets. It will be interesting to see if the other companies follow AT&T and change the text message plans they offer.

The bottom-line is that AT&T is charging you 100,000 times more when you don’t have a messaging plan and that is a rip off. The only thing to do about that is to fight back. Call AT&T and let them know that you are not interested in text message plans that probably came out of Mordor.

Updated 08/19/2011 at 05:50AM PDT: These new plan changes mainly affect new customers, since existing customers can keep their current plans. However, the changes still limit choice for all customers and that is just plain bad.

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  • MacRat

    Another benefit of Google Voice. Free SMS.

  • Joshua Hernandez

    Keep in mind that when you do have unlimited texting through ATT, that any call to a mobile phone, regardless of carrier is a free minute. I recently upgraded to the unlimited texting, so i could downgrade my minute plan to the basic 450 minutes, as i am rarely calling a phone number that isnt cellular. In the end, Im actually saving $10 a month.

  • SarahJames0906

    I just p a i d $21.87 for an i P a d 2-64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasonîc Lumîx GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS.I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy.
    Here is the website we use to get it all from,http://to.ly/aXHh

  • FriendAndy.com

    I use Sprint and get unlimited data, texts, roaming, mobile to mobile, nights and weekends, 4G, plus 450 phone to land-line minutes during weekdays 8am – 7pm for only $70 bucks a month. That’s a pretty ridiculous deal if you ask me…

  • lals83
  • techgeek01

    google voice.  free SMS

  • Desidério Ortelá

    that’s really terrible.. here in Portugal there’s a plan in wich you don’t have any limitations. You can make calls, video calls, send sms and mms and you only pay €12,50 per month.

  • Taylor White

    Verizon, here I come.

  • Pawel Tomasz Dlugosz

    iMessage can’t come soon enough. But then again, it’s gonna be only between iOS devices so… problem isn’t really solved.

  • Jay Floyd

    I’ve been happy with my hacked iPhone on TMobile and will probably get a Verizon phone once they get up to speed.

  • DerekisaMAC

    AT&T just sucks, I think everyone should switch providers, no matter what it costs them. Then, when AT&T goes under for being A$$HOLES! All the other companies will take heed and the telecommunications industry will be much more inclined to serve their customers rather than fu@k them over like AT&T. I made the switch 2 years ago and I tell everyone to do the same!

  • Wayne_Luke

    Either keep your grandfathered 1000 text plan for $10.00 or upgrade to unlimited. The price change only affects new customers. Personally, I am on a family plan with 5 lines and we send between 6,000 and 7,000 texts a month. We’ve been on the $30.00 unlimited plan for two years. Averages out to $6.00 per line per month.

    Plus we get unlimited calls to any mobile phone in the country. We’re at the base minutes for our plan at 500 per month and we roll over 450 of those every single month. This is with my teenage daughter spending an average of 3,000 minutes on her phone per month.

  • Barton Lynch

    why doesn’t a carrier just make it free? it would be great marketing, and texting costs them nothing already. I guess the other carriers would follow… but one can dream?

  • Wayne_Luke

    We’re on AT&T and get unlimited mobile, unlimited text, and unlimited web on 4 of our 5 lines and 2 GB on the iPhone. We pay $190 month for 5 lines. Or less than $40.00 per line. We’ve never hit the limit on the iPhone but there is Wifi just about everywhere we go.

  • lsla5577
  • nthnm

    Wow. I can’t believe a Canadian carrier actually has better pricing. This might be a first.

  • timborama

    Another scam.  Why is unlimited mobile to mobile calling tied to a texting plan?!?

  • lsla5577
  • Deocliciano Okssipin Vieira

    Nothing IS free. From Google i mean.

  • GDal

    That sounds incredibly complicated!

    My plan
    2000 minutes landline or mobile
    5000 in network mobile to mobile
    5000 texts
    Unlimited data (truly – used over 1GB on the first day)

    all for £25 ($40)… On iPhone 4.

    …but I’m in the UK, so that doesn’t help you guys. :-)

    I had considered getting rid of my home broadband, but… no.

    I can’t believe the prices for cell service in the US, compared.

  • GDal

    Hopefully someone creates an iMessage app for other devices… Wishful thinking I know,,,

  • GDal

    Damn! Much better than my UK plan.

  • derekedelaney

    Can you keep your same number with google voice and att?

  • theguycalledtom

    It already exists. It’s called What’s App:
    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app

    Support for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Nokia.  Huge marketshare compared to similar services like Textie.

    I’m sure Facebook messenger will have an impact one day as well when it goes international.

    There is also a thing called email.

    Drop sms now, even if you get it free with your plan because not everyone gets its free.

  • Alexandre Junior

    So true, was about to say the same. You get unlimited calls and sms to everyone from the same plan in the same carrier. It ends up being really nice if everyone has the same plan, which happens throughout the country.

  • Allan Cook

    What makes you think VZ isn’t going to do the same thing?

  • lsla44
  • Jim Burton

    That is why I went with Sprint.  

    It’s also why I don’t have an iPhone.  Being forced to use AT&T (the only option at the time) was a dealbreaker for me.

  • GregsTechBlog

    We’re getting less and less from our cell phone companies. Faster speeds, but a data cap so you can’t take advantage of them. Now this. 
    I really hope iMessage catches on. 

  • HelveticaNeue

    That title is a bit overdramatic isn’t it?

    Mordor was a realm of horror, oppression and despair corrupted by the foul spirit of that being which long held lordship over that black land.  Sauron’s singular will was focused on utterly dominating all life … not raising the prices on text message plans.  

  • GregsTechBlog

    It is, but I only have one friend left on Sprint, and he’s considering AT&T or Verizon for his next phone. He’s never used 4G, and has spotty and slow data coverage. 
    It all depends on where you live though. If Sprint gets the iPhone 5, and you have decent coverage in your area, I say go for it. 

  • G

    Where that image come from? That is one lazy azz photoshoper!

  • lsla44
  • César Neves

    My plan:

    Unilimited calls, unlimited texts and MMS.. all for just 10€/month! Ok, it`s all free between costumers with the same plan on Vodafone but my main contacts have it!

    Vodafone Portugal!

  • Mac365

    “These new plan changes mainly affect new customers, since existing customers can keep their current plans.” You’re an existing customer until you renew your contract, then you are subject to the “new plan changes” and will be effected by the price increase.

  • Mac365

    Ugh, get the SPAM outta here!!

  • Joe Martinez

    I think this is a direct reaction to Apple’s iMessage platform. I think ATT is afraid of losing this profit center and is forcing all of their users to pay-up. I can see Verizon jumping on this as well. 

  • GH

    lol, You’d have a CDMA iPhone.

    and throttled/limited data :o

  • Gheedsgreed

    It is for me

  • Gheedsgreed

    There’s also GroupMe for WP7 support

  • Bruce Wilcox

    It’s a nice theory, but it ain’t gonna happen. Every provider has its bad points, its poor service, and its unrealistic customers (just Google around). There are plenty of people out there who won’t switch over this, and there are others who’ll switch to AT&T from provider X for whatever reasons.

    As for me, I’ve gotta have GSM – other carriers’ phones, including Verizon’s, can’t get a signal where I live. I don’t pay the outrageous bucks for a land line, so my wireless is my home phone. That leaves AT&T and T-Mobile. I love my iPhone (3GS, thank you very much) and I ain’t a switchin’ to no Android – my coworkers are constantly fiddling with theirs to get them to do what my iPhone does effortlessly. So, my requirements of GSM + iPhone = I’ll hold on to AT&T and my current $10 message plan and my 3GS as long as I can, then decide whether an iPhone 5 (or whatever) is worth it then. And investigate Google Voice and other options.

  • Michael Black

    The problem with this app and the hundreds of other apps out there like this, is that you have to get your friends to exclusively use this. How do you handle the issue of someone having your phone number and then wanting to text you? What about people that don’t have smartphones (yes, I know, but they do exist)?

    As for me, I’ve gone the route of giving my Google voice number as my number and will use that for texting. Plus, combine Google voice with the Talkatone app, you not only solve the SMS issue, but the number of minutes issue as well. If only they could incorporate MMS.

  • Michael Black

    As others have stated, I think Google voice is really the solution for SMS. You can have a legitimate US phone number and send/receive unlimited text messages for free, except for the data that you use. The challenge with Google voice is just making certain that you get all of your current contacts to use that number instead of your actual cell number.

  • steve

    I think what ochyming was getting at is the old saying…”If it’s ‘free’, then you are the product being sold.”  Anyone who knows anything about Google knows that’s true.

  • 12345

    Speak for yourself. Learn to use proper spelling and grammar

  • Pelucid

    ATT is disregarding the imessage all together. Regardless that the user should be able to use iMessage and send free texts, ATT simply is ignoring this and charging (or counting it) as a standard text. It’s exhausting when you realize that you simply have no say against big business and the control they have. 

About the author

David W. MartinDavid W. Martin has more than 20 years of experience in the industry as a programmer, systems and business analyst, author, and consultant. David has written for CNET's iPhoneatlas.com, MacLife.com, CultofMac.com, BYTE.com and recently for aNewDoman.net. He comes to Cult of Mac's website with deep knowledge and passion for the all things Apple. Follow David on Twitter @david_w_martin or see what he's up to now at davidwmartin.com.

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