Messaging phones will cost you
Verizon Wireless and AT&T now require data plans for their quick messaging phones, but we think customers should have a choice.
One of the biggest cell phone trends of 2009 was the rapid rise of quick messaging handsets. Not quite a smartphone and made for more than making calls, quick messaging models like the
Messaging phones have become popular because they appeal to consumers who want more than a basic device--particularly one that is centered on texting--but don't want the extra features and required data plan that come with a smartphone. On that last point, however, the landscape is changing quickly.
As customers began to take advantage of the needed features on messaging phones, carriers wanted to capitalize on the extra revenue involved. Verizon Wireless was first out of the gate last year when it required customers purchasing a
Fair enough, but I'd still like to be able to opt out of a data plan. If I don't want, or don't plan to use, data then I shouldn't have to pay for it. And Verizon should offer additional options like disabling data features or including a notification that I will incur charges if I go online. If I end up using them anyway then I should be responsible for the associated costs.
Required data plans are completely appropriate for full-fledged smartphones, but messaging phones don't have such a clear identity. Some people undoubtedly use them for Web browsing, video, and the like, but others are perfectly happy to stick only with messaging. And remember that text messaging isn't even included in Verizon's data packages. For that you'll need to pay for texts individually (25 cents per sent message) or buy a bundle (anywhere from from $5 to $20 per month).
Verizon Wireless is not alone. As the Boy Genius Report said Friday, AT&T has a similar policy for some of its messaging phones. For example, when we tried to buy a Samsung Impression on Monday on AT&T's Web site we were told that we had to select one of four messaging/data plans. We could choose unlimited messaging for $20 per month or we could combine messaging and data for either $20 or $30 per month. Unfortunately, we could not select the $5 plan for just 200 messages. Reportedly, the plans also will be required for the
Here again, I argue for customer choice. AT&T and Verizon may think they're doing us a favor by saving us from bill shock, but in the process we're paying for services that we may never use. To me, it's a question of personal responsibility, rather than a carrier protecting me from making mistakes. Idealistic thinking, perhaps, but it should be my call.