Sunday, December 09, 2007

Texting Explained

In Prague, I almost never talked on my cell phone. There was seldom any reason to. I had my phone set to vibrate, and most people SMS'd me, which I could then answer silently and at my leisure. A very nice way of making plans anywhere, anytime.
When I decided to go ahead and get a cell phone in the US as well, I assumed that this fine system would continue.
Alas, while most people under 60 now do seem to have cell phones, they seem to be baffled at the notion of using them differently (less obtrusively) than regular phones. I'd send someone an SMS and find out weeks later that it was received but that they "don't know how to answer" or "don't want to pay to do that."
It was very puzzling, so I was glad to see Danah Boyd explain the history of North American text messaging and compare it to the European model.
As she points out, the cell phone business is run very differently in America than in Europe. In Europe, you normally buy credit as needed and you don't pay for anything incoming, so your friends can contact you whether or not you've used up your credit. In America, you normally have a "plan" that allows some specific amount of voice calling plus (or not plus) other services. Even the pay-as-you-go plans are kind of weird; I've run out of credit on mine because someone called me when I was low on credit. It's not very much fun to have your phone act like a pay phone that's run out of change in mid-conversation.
I'm not too impressed with the American mode. I don't want to pay for anything incoming, and I don't want to have to talk to people when it would be easier and less troublesome on both ends to use SMS. If I want to have a good talk with someone, I'd rather SMS them first to see if it's convenient, not interrupt whatever they might be doing.
I suspect, however, that the American method is designed to let people run up the bill as quickly as possible. Ah, capitalism!

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3 Comments:

Blogger Kristen said...

Travis and I were just talking about this today (when I brought up the Canada question). I also wish texting worked here like it does in Europe. I wasn't a texting freak, but it was a rather convenient option to have. {sigh}

December 10, 2007 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

I agree completely, especially with the social environmental issues of phoning vs. texting.

It's so annoying to listen to one side of an especially banal conversation when it's held at peak volume somewhere you can't escape it. I'm sure someoone on a PAT bus is uttering, "I'm just riding the bus right now, what are YOU doing?" as I write this.

Texting is ideal for these exhanges.

Yes, paying for incoming calls is terribly lame.

December 11, 2007 11:49 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

Yes, let's not even think about the banality of what we overhear on the bus.

December 13, 2007 5:11 PM  

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