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Thursday, 28 August 2008

Email as a dirt cheap alternative to Text Messaging

For people who use Text Messaging a lot, you may find that you are paying a stupidly large amount of money for this service. You can usually send a email with exactly the same message for less than a penny each. There are of course some advantages and disadvantages to Text Messaging over Email and vice versa.

The most obvious one is that not all mobile phones support email and you need to set it up with your email details if it does. These can be small issues, a lot of phones now do support email, and I would recommend checking your manual to see if yours does. And setting up email can be automated with some phones, so you can go to your manufacturers or networks website, enter in the details of your email account and then a settings message gets sent to your phone. Otherwise you may need to contact your manufacturer, network, and email provider.

Next, depending on your network you may need to set up a email address before you can use email. Others may have set up a email address for you automatically, or will be able to arrange this for you.

Then, the people you want to send emails to also need to have this set-up. This is exactly the same as with Picture Messages. An advantage to email is that it can be viewed from your computer instead of your phone, and you can send messages from there as well. Some services allow you to send Text Messages via Email so you send the email to the company and they forward it onto the recipient as a Text Message, these services will often also relay the Text Message replies back to your email.

An advantage to Text Messaging is that the messages are sent direct to your phone and so unless there is a network or phone problem you will get the message straight away. Whereas with most email you need to ask the phone to check for new messages. With many phones you can set it to check automatically, but this may be every half an hour as a maximum depending on the phone, so you would be waiting up to 30 minutes for your message notification. Unless of course you have a Push email service like Blackberry Internet Solution or Windows Push Email. If this is the case then you will get the emails immediately like with a Text Message.

Another advantage to Text Messaging is you do not get charged for receiving messages and there are no other 'overhead' charges. But, the charges are so much less than Text Messaging that I think this is not a major issue. The reason you get charged for receiving emails is because networks charge for all internet data sent and received, and when you receive a email you are receiving data from the internet. The problem with what I called overhead charges is that the phone needs to connect with the internet to check if there are any emails waiting, and this means you get charged for sending the request to see if there are emails waiting and again for the notification as to whether there are any or not, and then there is the email itself. This sounds like a lot of charges when spelt out like this, but it still comes to a fraction of a penny. But it does mean even if there are no emails you will be charged for the data used to check or the data will be deducted from any allowance you have. I would estimate as a maximum for 0.5p per day if you have no emails, so approximately 15p per month. This would be based on 1kb used each time the email was checked (a huge overestimation, but easier for basic calculations), with email being checked automatically every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with data charges at £10.00 per MB (Prices vary from £1.00 per MB up). On top of this I would also estimate a charge of 1p per message sent or received, which can be a longer message than a Text Message. For the 1p charge the email can be approximately 287 characters long whereas a standard Text Message is up to 160 characters. Overall I feel these charges balance in favour of email over Text Messaging.

Do give some indications of how many emails you can get on some networks. On T-Mobile you get charged up to £1.00 per day for internet usage, this is based on a charge of £7.50 per MB. So this comes to approximately 0.7p for each email (287 characters long) for the first £1.00, which would be approximately 142 emails and then you get a fair usage policy of 40MB during that day (midnight to midnight) for your £1.00. Which would give you approximately 5,680 emails for £1.00 if you used the full 40MB. If you regularly send a lot of emails each day you may be better off with their Web'n'Walk handset option which would give you 1GB of data for £7.50/month. This would give you approximately 148,897,792 messages to use each month. T-Mobile also have Mobile Broadband Plus, which is 3GB for £12.50 and can be 446,693,376 messages, and Mobile Broadband Max, which is 10GB for £22.50 and can be 1,488,977,920 messages. Now, all of these offers on T-Mobile are only available on contract in addition to a standard price plan, except the £1.00 per day offer which is also available on Pay as you Go.

Now, for another example if you took 3 Mobile Broadband you can get the 148,897,792 messages mentioned above for £10.00. And if you were to up it £15.00 you would get 3GB of data which can be 446,693,376 messages, or to £25.00 you would get 7GB of data which can be 1,042,284,544 messages. Now, all of these offers on 3 are available on Pay as you Go on their own.

Of course any data not used for email can be used for surfing the internet, downloading, etc.

Plus note, all figures in this post are estimates and there are a number of factors which can increase or decrease the actual cost paid. Including the network you are using, the software used to send/receive email, the size of the emails, and where it is being sent from (e.g. UK or overseas). No figure in this post is a guarantee and should be treated as a rough guide.