First I must preface, no I am not a teenager. Yes, I did spent $80 on SMS last month.
I’ve become quite used to using SMS for Twitter. This habit came out of traveling places where the data connection wasn’t good or on occasion non-existant. One time last year it even saved a friend from a travel issue. Rob Baker was joining our team in Indonesia and we were already out in Bau-Bau. I told Rob if he ran into any issues that there was free Wifi at the Makassar Airport and he could always direct message me on Twitter. I told him this ahead of time because I was unsure if I would have a data connection in Bau-Bau. It was fortunate I did because there was no connection and the Wifi at the hotel of our training was broken.
As Indonesian airlines are prone to do his flight to Makassar arrived late and he missed the flight to Bau-Bau, the tickets on the two flights were different airlines so the second airline would not honor the ticket at a later time. Most of the Indonesian airlines don’t take U.S. credit cards so Rob was not able to purchase another ticket. Freaking out a little bit he sent me a message (perhaps I should dedicate another post to the confusion caused by coming to a country where the exchange rate is 9000 rupiah to 1 U.S. Dollar). Fortunately by messaging me on Twitter one of my colleagues was able to book Rob a new ticket and send him on his merry way.
Now Twitter wasn’t 100% necessary in this case, I would have eventually gotten an email. Rob could have probably found a way to call me on my Indonesian mobile. What was great though is those things weren’t necessary. I was able to quickly get a message and help Rob, with minimal pain on either of our sides (minus the missed flight airline fiasco of course).
Whoa, SMS is Expensive
Previously I have written about switching to a prepaid mobile phone plan for when I am in the United States. I decided to attempt not using mobile data while in the U.S. with this plan and see what happened. The one communications I was not going to give up though was Twitter, so I set my account to use SMS a couple days upon my return to the U.S. This happened to be in the evening so I set it up and then went to bed. The next morning I woke up and my phone was out of credit. I quickly realized the issue, I had not just set SMS for @ replies and DMs (in other words messages directly to me). There were some friends where I had subscribed to their status updates. This burned through about $20 in one night. I readjusted my settings and purchased credit again see below my spending with T-Mobile over the past 3 months (this incident was 2/6/2012). You’ll see however less than two weeks later even with adjusted settings I had burned through what I had bought.
- 11/15/2012 $50.00
- 2/06/2012 $30.00
- 2/14/2012 $50.00
Paying to Receive
Text messages to me have always either been unlimited or extremely cheap. When I had a monthly plan previously I had unlimited, in Indonesia they are very cheap and there is no cost of receiving. The no cost to receive is the big thing that changes how one consumes. It is easy to sign-up for alerts or receive unnecessary messages when their is no cost.
In the United States however you pay both to send and receive texts. This can lead to very different mobile usage, such as friends who refuse to use text or status messages such as “On my new phone plan texts cost me money, please IM me.”
No perhaps I just have the wrong plan for my consumption. I almost never talk on the phone and when I do it is to call into a meeting, so I end up using Google Voice or Skype for that. If I receive a phone call to my mobile I usually let it go to voicemail unless I’m expecting it. It certainly is weird though to switch from the U.S. where my consumption patterns are apparently not the norm to Indonesia where if you send someone an important email you also text them asking them to read it.
Will I Live without Twitter?
Considering I spent $80 in February on Mobile to Tweet and SMS my friends it seems a bit excessive to use Twitter over SMS. I could probably get a data plan for less than that. Or I could stop using Twitter to my phone. I’m still saving money over having a mobile plan that I didn’t use for months at a time, but the cost if I stayed in the U.S. for any prolonged period of time would be far too much.
A quick search after the initial publishing of this post showed me that I just need to switch from “Pay As You Go” to ”Pay By The Day” with T-Mobile. My maximum expenditure per month would be $31 plus probably a few minutes at 10 cents a minute if something was urgent. Far better than the $80 I spent in February.