Friday, February 28, 2014

Text, voice, and video messaging

We are getting ripped off by carriers, and manipulated by device makers.  Wireless carriers are charging us extra for the least expensive thing we transmit across their communications: text messaging via SMS and MMS.  Device makers are making many think they have the only video chat service out there so people stick with their stuff.  Lets be smarter people.

Carriers and Text Messaging (SMS & MMS)

Carriers charge us extra for SMS and MMS (a.k.a. texting).  I know, people tell me all the time "I have unlimited texting".  Sure you do, for a price.  With the majority of devices now smartphones, and getting more so all the time, we have many great free universal alternatives.  We just need to get people to switch.

Carriers also try to create unique services to lock you into them.  Sometimes they even team up.  ISIS mobile wallet is an example of that.

Device Manufacturers

Device manufacturers have incentive to make the features on their devices unique so you will use their stuff in the future.  You will also tell your friends so they will use their stuff.  Apple does this all the time, making things "exclusive".  Steve Jobs was big on this.  He did not want freedom at all, he wanted monopoly and tyranny.  Sadly they made serious progress towards that goal.  Many people still believe that the iPhone does things other devices do not.  In reality if you look at the functional and feature level the iPhone is more restrictive, doing less.  Other device makers are guilty of this too of course but few have taken it to the level Apple has.

 Better Options

Several great alternatives now exist, and have for some time.  I remember using free video messaging in the 1990's.  It is not really new but has certainly improved.  Many of these let you also use your PC and in some cases even smart TV's.
  • Google Hangouts:  This does text, picture, and video messaging on Android and iOS.  You can also do it from a PC or Mac.  I use this one the most.  Simple to use and it works great.  I did a Hangouts video session with a friend in India a few weeks ago and the video was clear and smooth.  One downside is that it does not yet support Blackberry, Windows phone, or other operating systems yet.  Hopefully this will change in the future though. 
  • Viber:  Similar to hangouts.  I have not personally used this but I know people who do.  Viber is available and most platforms, even Bada.  You can use it on mobile or desktop.
  • WhatsApp: This does not yet support video chat but it is supported on most mobile platforms and has many users.  It was recently sold to Facebook.
  • Skype: This does text, voice, and video chats.  It works on most platforms for mobile and desktop as well as certain smart TV's , Blu-Ray players, and game consoles.  Skype has been around and doing this for a very long time.  It is now owned by Microsoft.
  • Facebook messenger: So far this only does chat and is only supported in Android and iPhone.  Probably not worth mentioning here except Facebook has such a huge user base.  Maybe with the acquisition of WhatsApp they will create a good messaging service.  
  • ooVoo: Free video calling with up to 12 at a time.  This has been around a while now too. So far is supports Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows and Mac.  
  • Tango: Works with Windows PC, Windows 7 phone, Android, and iOS.
  • Fring: Available for Nokia, Amdroid, and iOS.
  • Camfrog: Available for Windows PC, Mac, Android, Kindle, iOS.
I'm sure I missed several more.  What makes these better?  You are no longer stuck with a device brand, OS, or carrier.  You are free to switch devices and carriers and stay in contact.

more to come....