Android and Apple Apps Cutting Texting Fees

Smartphone users are now finding ways to escape texting fees by using applications bypassing wireless carriers.

In the last six months of 2010, the number of texts grew only slightly -- 8.7 percent -- and the smallest amount in texting's decade of existence, the Wall Street Journal reported. The reason? More users are turning to apps that let users send message via the Internet, not their wireless carriers, and not racking up short message service fees.

However, some wireless carriers say they aren't worried about losing texting fees just yet.

Mark Collins, AT&T's senior vice president for data and voice products, expects high demand for texting plans to persist for a long time, because texting, unlike the Apple or BlackBerry messaging services, allows cellphone users to send instant messages to people with different devices.

Collins should be worried. Although the apps got a boost of recognition recently as Apple unveiled its iMessage, similar apps have been available for download on iTunes and the Android Market for the last year -- and BlackBerry Messenger has kept users tied to the BlackBerry platform for the better part of a decade. (The WSJ also reported that Google is working on an Android version, too.)

Our favorite independent app that provides relief from SMS fees is GroupMe, a free group chat/messaging app available on Android, iOS and BlackBerry platforms and their various app markets. It enables users to text anyone in their select group as an in-app group chat rather than SMS, even their Moms who only have a feature phone -- because it works on any phone that texts.

Both Google and Apple should be paying more attention to this innovative start-up that embraces almost all cell phones and platforms.

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