NEWSFLASH: Text messaging is a huge rip off

I was spoiled. The first phone that I had when this whole “texting” (as the kids call it) craze hit was a T-Mobile Sidekick, which included unlimited SMS messages with the data plan. Then somewhere along the lines, I fell off the wagon and switched to Sprint in order to get my hands on a Treo 650. Imagine my surprise when I got my first bill and found out I’d all of a sudden been paying some ungodly amount for each text message I’d sent and received.

So how much do you actually end up paying nowadays? Depending on your carrier, you could be paying something along the lines of \$1497.97 per megabyte and the person on the other end has to pay the same amount to receive one megabyte (assuming 20 cents to send, 20 cents to receive). Hit the jump for more hard data.

According to A Gthing Science Project,

A standard SMS message contains up to 140 bytes (1120 bits) of data – this takes care of the 160 characters allowed in your text message. This might not make sense at first, until you realize that SMS uses 7 – not 8 – bit characters – leaving you with 128 possible character values instead of the normal 256. So 1120bits/7bits = 160 characters.

So our total message length is about a tenth of a kilobyte (.13671875 Kbytes). In terms that the iPod generation would understand – if you had an iPod with a tenth of a kilobyte you could fit 1/4000th of a song on it. I assume here and for the rest of this article that 1 song = 4 Megabytes.

If you divide 140 (the total number of bytes available to you) by 20 (the cost per message), you find that you are paying 1 cent for every 7 bytes of data. This leaves you with a cost of \$1,497.97 for the 1024Kbytes contained in a single megabyte. iPod users: It would cost you \$5,991.88 to transfer – not even to buy – a single song via SMS.

Granted, you could add the \$5-or-whatever per month texting plan to your account, but it’s the principle, right?

The True Cost of SMS Messages [a gthing science project] via Slashdot