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Data Only Cell Phones

August 13th, 2010
texting, tech, cell  [html]
I really don't like synchronous communication unless it's in person. Which means I don't like telephones. With email I can answer right away if something's urgent, or put off answering if it's not. Email's free but telephones aren't. I can read much faster than I can listen, and reading lets me skim and jump around in a message.

Not having a cell phone or landline is socially somewhat awkward, though, and I suspect it will get more and more so over time. Forms require telephone numbers, if someone's giving you a ride they want your number so you can get in touch in case of delays, people find themselves unexpectedly in town and want to meet up.

The first of these, forms that require numbers, I now have an answer to in the form of google voice, number (617) 871-0237. Call, leave a message, I get an email transcription. Not great for situations where there's any urgency, but good for giving to medical offices etc.

The second two, unplanned mobile communication, are harder, and I don't have a solution yet, but I think will be sorted out in the next few years. What would solve this would be texting plans getting cheap. Once they are cheap, most people will be happy to recieve texts (unlike now where each one might be costing the recipient 10 cents and the sender doesn't know in advance). Once they are cheap, I'll be able to afford one.

There is really no technical reason why texting is not dirt cheap already. It's far easier than voice calls for the carriers. In most other countries, texting is cheaper than voice. In the USA, texting is pretty much only expensive for marketing reasons. I suspect this will change over time.

How close are we to the time when texting (or some other kind of mobile messaging) is cheap enough that I'll get a cell? Looking now, these are the cheapest unlimited texting plans I find: When these get below $10/month I'll be interested.

Update 2010-08-14: David german informed me that T-Mobile offers a prepaid plan with unlimited texting for $15/month. I've added it to the list above. Getting close to reasonable.

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