Social networking via cell phones seems to be making a strong push lately. In the last few weeks alone we've covered Joopz, Groovr, PL8Scn, MySpace Mobile, and Gimme20, all services that let you use SMS text messages to communicate with others. Zemble, which launched its public beta version last month, is a free, group-based communication service that lets members send messages en masse to other members.
Similar to Joopz and 3Jam, Zemble lets you create your own group of phone or e-mail contacts and save it as a preset of sorts. Zemble calls these group presets "Zembles." If you send a message to your Zemble, other members of that Zemble will receive the message and be able to respond either individually to you or to the entire group.
Speaking of spam, Zemble says its a no-spam service, although during this month's New Tech Meetup last night in San Francisco, co-founder Doug Ludlow let on about company plans to generate income from the service using targeted ads at the end of sent messages. Currently, the service doesn't include these ads, but it seems their goal is to place an ad at the end of your messages, based on your demographic. Standard SMS messages have a limit of 160 characters, so it's hard to imagine how good these ads could be.
To avoid getting huge phone bills at the end of the month for your excessive texting, Zemble has some simple limitations you can place on both your Zemble friends and your overall Zemble usage. You can both enable and disable certain friends from sending or receiving messages, and set a limit on the amount of Zembles you can receive each month.
Zemble would be an expensive habit for most people on U.S. carriers. Casual text messaging still hasn't hit big here, but what is big is the cost. Most carriers charge in excess of 10 cents for sending and receiving, so despite Zemble being free, using it on a regular basis will increase your phone bill if you don't have a cheap messaging plan. I like the idea of sending multiple texts easily, I'm just not so thrilled about paying more at the end of the month.