Share this Story

Thursday Poll: Traditional Text Message or Free Messaging Service?

A reader turned me onto an interesting Associated Press article that focused on the state of the free instant messaging/texting world and how much money carriers have been losing because of it. In 2011 alone, carriers saw a decrease in profits of around $14 billion dollars as consumers have moved onto Blackberry Messenger, iMessage, Google Talk and other services that can send messages using data instead. Before you feel too bad for them, know that they reportedly still took in an estimated $153 billion from text messages. A 9% decrease year-over-year is pretty massive though. Carriers are now looking to creating their own solutions on this front so that they can hopefully help save this particular cash cow industry before it’s gone for good.

So this all got us wondering – how do you interact with friends and family?  Through the dinosaur method text messaging or with a free instant messaging/texting service?

*Note – We would include Google Voice in the “instant messaging” category since it’s free and is an alternative to standard text messaging.

Text Message or Instant Messaging Service?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Cheers @kaufkin!

  • marballe

    Their profits went from messaging to data.

  • They will still make money no matter what too many folks with Smart Phones that do not know they even have Gtalk or what it is and thus only text message. Sadly it will take another 10 years before texting is completely obsolete. 

  • jtwildman1

    Companies like Verizon will never lose money.
    I promise they will raise the price somewhere else if everyone stopped their texting plan. Besides, it’s really
    Not that expensive,I spend more on a Red Bull 🙂

  • schwinn8

    GV is my SMSing platform now. It requires a diffrent phone number (I was lucky to get a single digit change from my existing phone number). It confuses some people, so I get the occasional traditional text, which costs me money, but it’s cheaper than $10/month for 500 text messages and such through VZ. Besides, I can tell them to use the other number, and people usually get it. It’s well worth the effort, really. Eventually, I may block standard SMSs, but the occasional text from new people is tolerable.

  • KatsumeBlisk

    I mainly use standard SMS because the people I talk to don’t have smartphones. Of course, I don’t really talk the them even. I’ve started using Google Voice for everything, but it’s still for texting and I pay for texting still.

  • I don’t use GVoice, but I am trying to transition my friends over to GTalk whenever possible. It’s easier, quicker and cheaper than texting.

  • JayB

    I hate regular sms texting. I wish everyone would either use G Talk or Google Plus messenger. I love the ICS G Talk.

  • LOL at the money they are “losing”.

    Google Voice was one of the reasons I got an Android smartphone in the first place! The hell if I’m going to spend $0.25 to send a text when I’m already paying for unlimited data! email is free, why does anyone still text?

    (and stop saying “because I know people without smartphones. That’s a lie, everyone has a smartphone.)

  • Dionhurd

    Unlimited texting……so why not just text??

  • Michael Lewis

    It’s a pain in the butt trying to get all your friends to use the same free text messaging service….

  • Craig

    Texting is for the kiddies. Why use text when one can send a push email without all the limitations. Personally, I rarely send a text and I get mad if someone sends me one. I think these carriers charging 20 cents a pop is nothing but a huge scam especially when I already pay $30 monthly for data.

  • I didn’t know you could send SMS thru GTalk.  That doesn’t sound right.

  • Craig Lambert

    I realize the earnings for SMS may have gone down but I’d be shocked not to learn that their earnings for data plans have gone way up.  True they’re not making more than they would have but they’re still making more than if their users just had SMS.  Am I missing something?  FWIW, SMS is totally disabled on my phone.  I use Google Voice & gTalk.

  • I have Google Voice and Google Talk and I use both (Voice for just voicemail and talk for chat), but fact is a far higher number of friends don’t have these services and therefore its far easier to text via normal cell number. So, that is used predominantly and I have a family plan with unlimited texting as a result.

  • Brian Worhatch

    Not enough people use those free messaging services or can’t strictly only use that

  • sidney547

    Doesn’t the other party need to have the same service?  It doesn’t seem practical/worth it.

    • Correct, but ALL Android users have gtalk.  That’s like over half of smartphone users right there.  The other half have iPhones, so who wants to talk to them anyway.

      • sidney547

         Don’t worry, I don’t associate with THOSE people lol

  • my messaging platform is not by choice. try to get really stubborn people to download and install an app .. its like pulling teeth, especially iphone people.if i could ditch texts and the 20 bucks a month extra i pay for unlimited texts i would…

  • I use Google Voice for almost all of my text msging because in addition to my Android phone I also am a heavy user of my iPod touch and I like to be able to pick up either device and to see my texts.  I also use the web based Google Voice site on my work desktop.  I only use my regular text msging app / service to send / receive photos.  If Google Voice allowed photos I would have no use for regular msging.

  • GawkerRedesignSucks

    My friends and family all use standard texting so I have to as well.  I thought about going the Google Voice route, but porting my number on Verizon would be too complicated and I don’t want to use the GV number.

  • if google voice allowed me to group text more than the 5 people limit now, and mms, I would use it so much more. kinda half and half now. Im grandfathered into $5mo unlimited vz to vz and 50msgs to non vz. so anyone that doesnt use vz gets msged from google voice. 

  • Tabe

    Mostly traditional messaging. Even thought a large portion of my friends/family do have Android phones I can’t, for the life of me, get them to consistently use GTalk! 

  • Robert Walters


  • Biscuitsandtea

    Traditional text. It’s difficult to exclusively use other free services if you can’t get all of your contacts to use them.

  • Scott

    I want to use free alternatives, but it seems most people around insist on going the traditional route.  It is understandable, sometimes services such as Gtalk or Gvoice can be….delayed.

  • r0lct

    I need 2 things from GVoice to be able to stop texting all together:
    1) MMS
    2) email address for GVoice number (like the @ vtext.com for VZW)

    I’m sure the first one everyone is hoping for.  The second is more a work requirement.

  • Meister_Li

    E-Mails. Nothing else. 😛

  • Tim242

    Why pay $20 for SMS? Google Voice FTW!

  • Daniel Rowen

    Handcent SMS makes sending traditional text messaging a pleasure on my phone, I’m addicted and see no reason to bother using anything else really since it uses less battery than staying connected to Jabber and gives me great pop-ups to reply in…also with unlimited messaging on my plan, why not?

  • Jimas

    Both my wife and I use Google Voice exclusively, because it’s the perfect bridge between real SMS and free, and also provides a lot more convenience, like I can send SMS in my browser.

    This saves us $40/month because we don’t need to get any texting plans…

    The only drawback is MMS, but our friends tend not to use that much, so it’s not a big deal for us. Plus, I’m thinking Google Voice will support this in the near future (they already do on Sprint).

    • Jimas

      BTW, we’re both on unlimited data plans and using Android phones….the integration with calling and SMS is awesome.

      Tried using iPhone, but the Google Voice app in there refreshes too slowly, so it wasn’t good enough for daily use. But I’m wondering if that’s Google deliberately dragging their feet to discourage iPhone use in a way. Who knows.

    • While Sprint does have access to MMS, I believe the rest of us get a hybrid fix kind of. Currently when I receive the occasional MMS I’ll still get the notification in GV, and I also recieve an email with the actual picture. Is it convenient? No. But its there for that one person that still sends me MMS. Everyone goes FB these days anyway.

  • Eddieg28sp

    I like HEYWIRE for Free picture messages. But Im not sure that if your sending to someone else that does not have Heywire what happens. But its free, and even available for iOS so pretty cool.

    • CORYK333

      Not 100% sure w/HEYWIRE, but pretty much all of those services are client exclusive (TEXT+, PALTALK, etc….). It probably says it in the market page for HEYWIRE, but if you want to be sure, just try sending to some1 that you know doesnt use it.

  • droid209

    i use comcast to send free text messages (the drawback is the text number is my home phone number).

  • Jnmigr

    I blocked even the $.25 per text on my account. Got tired of getting charge for incoming text from people that have it for free with their data plan. I find it stupid that people still pay for this instead of gtalk. Plus my phone bill is already higher then my triple play cable bill, why pay them more?

  • Paul

    Old school text messaging for me. Still got the $5 plan for 250 messages on Verizon.

  • nimbyist

    Google Voice & GTalk all the way! 😀

    For anyone who wants to move to GVoice, but keep their own number, I believe it only costs $20 to port their number. You’ll make the $20 back in no time by not paying for a texting plan.

  • 1TallTXn

    My wife and I practically live on GTalk, but friends/family reside on SMS.
    We switched to GTalk due to her old BB not allowing more than 160 characters per SMS, Android kindly splits the messages up. BB wasn’t so kind.

  • randompsychology

    I’m using a lot of traditional texting to this day, but that’ll change once I get my wife a smartphone later this year. Planning on porting her number to Google Voice (so she can keep it) and then blocking all texting on our actual mobile numbers. Can’t wait.

    Tried GroupMe and text+ as well, but for whatever reason, my circles don’t seem to use that as much.

    Google+ Messaging feels like the future though.

  • Buzzy42

    I don’t have any sort of text message plan as I refuse to spend the insane amount of money (relative to carrier’s costs) for it. The only time it annoys me is I have one friend who likes to send ‘broadcast’ texts to everyone she knows, but she’ll accidentally send to my “real” phone instead of my Google voice #, then one of her friends will write back a reply to all, and then someone else replies, etc. It gets annoying paying $1 in texting fees because her friends say “Yay!” or whatever. 

    That said, I have never come even close to hitting the equivalent of Verizon’s $5/month cheapest text plan. I just reply to any texts that come into my phone via Google Voice and move the conversation that way.

    (I only got my smartphone about a year ago so I couldn’t even text on-the-go with my dumbphone as, again, I refused to pay the rates. But I did successfully use Google Voice via computer for a couple years before finally getting a smartphone)

    So I selected “all free” even though occasionally I have to use “regular” texting when people text the wrong number.

    • Droidzilla

      You should disable texting on that device. It won’t affect Google Voice (since it uses the data plan).

      • droid209

        i disabled texting on my plan and only use comcast texting

      • Buzzy42

        Yeah, reading these posts is making me think I should — do people know that you don’t receive their texts, though? I have most of my friends/family get it right, but I’m scared I’d miss something if they texted my “real” number and I had texting disabled.

  • I refuse to pay for SMS plans, because pricing is a highway robbery. 
    So, GTalk all the way.

    • kixofmyg0t

      $10 unlimited is highway robbery? Wth are you doing on Verizon then?

      • $10 for what doesn’t cost them a penny? For what should be the part of my $30 data plan already? For what I can get for free over IP? Yes it is. SMS prices are the biggest swindle in telecom.
        I’m on Verizon because I want reception eveywhere, not because it’s expensive. I never pay for what I can get for free, but I don’t mind paying for the best service around.

        • snowblind64

          So true. Texting uses an incredibly small amount of data. Carriers are charging far more for this service than what is reasonable given the small amount of network traffic required to send a text.

          Unfortunately I have to keep my $5 texting plan for the few people I know without smartphones.

          • EC8CH

            no doubt, texting rates are ridiculously overpriced.  I wish a messaging app would gain enough of a following to make it a standard across platforms so that it would evolve into a standard everyone would use.  Then the telecoms could take their overpriced texting plans and shove ’em.

  • You do know they can call you to your GVoice number and that cuts the confusion of having to text a different number and call another one, i figure why would i pay for free services, id give an explanation 100 x before i pay for texting! 

  • MFG

    Kik FTW!

  • MrWicket

    I would love for more people to start using other services as I would love to save a few bucks and drop texting.. but too many are too ingrained and it’s amazing the number of people that still don’t have smartphones. I hope with the huge growth and the lack of feature phones and even dumb phones more people moving to smart phones will see the benefit and it’ll be a more global move making it easier for those of use that are already ahead of the curve as early adopters.

  • saimin

    Google Voice = free text messaging

  • moelsen8

    free messaging as much as i can, mainly for the small handful of people that can understand why i have a different number they text to and from with me (google voice).  they still send me texts on my normal cell number from time to time, but i saved enough to take myself down to the lowest verizon tier just using this between me and my wife.

    but yeah, what a crock text messaging plans are at this point in the game.  if free programs weren’t such an inconvenience and didn’t require a lot of coordination between yourself and the people you text, i’d switch over full time.  F the carriers, let them bleed dry.  They’ve been raping us for years now with text messages.

  • Pete

    Still mostly traditional messaging for both text and pics.  There’s so much room for improvement and I wish someone (Google, are you listening? You can drive this!) would take the lead.  

    I used to try and use GTalk on my OG Droid to text with my wife on her Blackberry Storm.  Hers wouldn’t stay logged in sometimes, we wouldn’t get offline messages sent through so we were missing things and went back to traditional messaging.  She did use BBM for communication with other BB friends.

    Now I have the Nexus and she has an iPhone.  I try and use Google+ Messenger when I can but there’s little to no adoption, even between the two of us.  We still end up using the normal messaging.  Apple has the right idea – integrate the data text into the same interface with the normal text message program.  That way the user doesn’t have to decide on a program to use and It Just Works.  

    What if Google integrated G+ Messenger into the normal text message app?  Use it for normal messages where you can, but if the person is tied to a G+ account then it uses that.  Users instantly see the benefits of how G+ is a lot like BBM.  Make it default on Android so that all 850k of those activations each day are already using your network for their messaging.  Or does Apple have a patent on that?

    Additionally, I still have most of my family on feature phones so we still use traditional messaging for them.

    • Lucas Moller

      This is what google needs to do more than anything else on their platform. INTEGRATE gchat, gv, and carrier texts (i throw in carrier texts since it needs no data [texting from the boonies] – that’s the reason to pay for SMS)

      • LionStone

        I do use GV for my vm and some texting but it is nice to just shut off the mobile network when all I want my phone for is to call and still be able to text, especially when I’m in 1X (one area I work at). On the other hand when I’m traveling by airplane, it is nice to get vm and to be able to text over wifi.

  • hippo

    I would love to get rid of my texting plan, but my friends still send too many damn texts. Somehow my wife’s friends are way ahead of mine.

  • Gtalk FTW!!!  The only reason I ever use traditional txt msgs is for communication with my loser friends and family that have iPhones.  😉

    • Jordan Webb

      Only one of my close friends still has Android over iPhone. All the rest of them and my family switched to iPhones this past contract cycle.

      It’s kinda lame, but it means I’m not support anymore. They have an issue, I put my hands up and go “It’s an iPhone. I don’t know.”

  • Liderc

    Most of my family still don’t have smart phones, so I still use traditional text, but I have unlimited anyways.

    I tried Google voice, but I didn’t see the point until everyone I know uses smart phones. 

  • TheRobotCow

    I did use google voice to text people but for some reason my gVoice number was already someone elses so i stopped using it. Aim works but it was a pain after a while.
    To me its just a whole lot easier using regular texting, having differenct numbers isnt difficult to keep track of for me but it is for other people. 

  • mjmedstarved

    If you guys use Chrome… check out Mighty Text.

  • ~dArK.AnGeL

    GVoice for the girls; Stock Txt for the family &friends; & HeyWire for International friends down south;.. 🙂

  • MKader17

    Kellex, I would say I only send traditional texts because that’s really all I’m familiar with. I always thought Google Voice was cool but I never wanted to make the plunge because I’ve never seen any good write-ups that make me feel confident with the plunge. You should do a write-up that shows people the ways you can get Google Voice or a non traditional SMS service to work and the best way to keep your original number

    • snowblind64

      You don’t have to give up your original number to use Google Voice. You can add a new number and have it forward to one or multiple phones. There are many great features such as; free visual voice-mail with transcripts and in app playback, call screening, automatic spam call blocking, call recording, inexpensive international calling, and much more.

      I was like you until I gave Voice a try a few weeks ago. Now I’ll never go back.

    • I agree with snowblind64. Google Voice is the hub of all my “real life” contact. I can send some people straight to voicemail, block spam calls/texts, *read* voicemail very quickly and very accurately within seconds after it was left, etc. Plus it saves a few dollars every month since I don’t have to pay for texts on my phone bill, and in fact have the service completely disabled to avoid accidental or unauthorized charges (random texts from people; nobody I know since I never share or use my phone’s actual number).

  • John Burke

    My carrier includes international (world-wide) TXT’ing in my unlimited TXT plan, however, I use

    – traditional TXT’ing to talk to my friends in Canada (and some US)- TextPlus Gold to talk to my friends in the US that get charged for TXT’ing to Canada (example: T-Mobile & Verizon)- WhatsApp to talk to people outside of North America that get charged for international TXT’ing

  • google voice for life

  • clarkbsharp

    I’m really about 50/50 where is that button?

  • Google Voice: checking VM and texts from the web is SO handy at work

  • i use a mix of both. some people i send messages don’t have smart phones, so they get traditional text, but i gtalk some folks if they have it. i also use a g+ group chat to chat with a couple friends during sporting events. therefore, i’m a hybrid.

  • Droidzilla

    Google Voice for life, son.

  • Bradley Albert Nemitz

    I have unlimited texting, and use Google voice. I don’t like the voice app, so I get texts forwarded to the messaging app, but text about 50/50 from my laptop and my phone.

  • Iny

    I mostly send traditional text messages.  Unlimited with my plan, so I really don’t need to use anything else.

  • Michael_NM

    mttfm. Mostly traditional text for me…

  • Joshua Newsome

    Had to pick mostly because for some reason my messages will randomly send via carrier sms rather than Google Voice.

  • xFenixKnightx

    iMessage. The ole lady made me. =/ The rest traditional. 

  • Yeah, I tried to use Google Voice for my texting, and did it for a year.  But getting calls TO me from my GV number never really panned out, often people would call my wife and ask her if my phone was disconnected.  So we had to try to manage one number for texting and another for calls.  And that was a nightmare.  And even though ALL of my friends are on Gtalk or Skype or…. none of them can figure out that we can use those instead of texting.  So, yeah, I give.  I’ll pay my monthly not to have to worry about it.

  • Icehunter

    When my OG droid was on its last legs, it wouldn’t reliably receive text messages. So I started to use Google Voice. When I got my Nexus, I stuck with Google Voice because I could send texts in class via my laptop and still look like I was doing work. =)

  • 0silentmage0

    Texting on the phone, gvoice on the tablet

  • LightNfluffy

    Texting for those on Verizon, Google Voice and Google Talk for everyone else.

  • SH

    I’m ashamed to say I still send text messages…. My family and friends are not up with the times, so I have to revert to stone age methods…

    • kixofmyg0t

      You shouldnt be ashamed. I only really use traditional texting. I would like to save the $10 from unlimited texting but not a single one of my friends use g-voice or any free method. Plus my wife sends over 5,500 texts a month and none of her friends are super hipsters either. 

      But the MAIN reason is sometimes im in a area where I have no data at all. Its strange but I can still send and recieve texts in a Bradley fighting vehicle but I have no data…..so I have to keep old school texting. 

      • EC8CH

        SMS don’t use the data signal at all, but go through the control channel that is used to determine which cell your phone is one and switch cells as you move around.  That’s why texts go through even in lower coverage areas where you have no data.

        • kixofmyg0t

          I knew somewhat of that. What Im saying is I dont normally have data inside a tank but texts still go through. I pop out and LTE comes back, or 3G if Im out in the middle of nowhere. 

  • MikeCiggy

    I would’nt say that texting has really taken the %9 drop itself. Maybe the profits but I text constantly barely ever using a different service. But the difference is most of my friends and family all have verizon so texting is free. We never go over out text limit. However to lower our bill we got more texting and less minutes. Again everyone I call is free so I dont use many minutes…

  • Inquizitor

    GVoice and GTalk all day, errday.

    • sc0rch3d

      same here. how have you solved your MMS issue? i get so aggravated that i have to email a pic and then text – “check your email” – hoping they have a smartphone or near PC.

      • pubasnacks77

        Don’t know about other free messaging apps, but on Kik you can send pics and what not. 

        • Fattie McDoogles

          Yea but you can only talk to people who have KIK

      • John

        yep. this is my concern too. what happens when someone sends an MMS message to your googlevoice #?

        • Inquizitor

          I could be wrong, but I think the pic is emailed to you? Not sure, honestly.

          • John

            Ya just had a friend try it. Nothing happens. I don’t get any sort of notification (not even an error) – nor does he…just says “sent” from his phone


          • I use GV and it says that you have a message with a “subject” which means a pic or video and then I just go to GMail to see it.It could be better I don’t know, I just dont have a data plan so I use wi-fi…but that’s cool for me and YES they can send it directly to my number.

          • John

            interesting. i guess i’ll keep trying… thx

      • Only certain carriers are allowed to do MMS over Google Voice and the only Tier 1 being Sprint (not VZ, AT&T, T-Mo). Do not plan on that happening anytime soon either,

      • Inquizitor

        I mean, my friends/family and I don’t really text that much anyway, so I personally never have a need for MMS. I can understand that it would be aggravating otherwise, though, and it’s something that probably should be implemented.

      • Fattie McDoogles

        Thats exactly why I still primarily use texting. Everyone I know texts and I send and receive a lot of MMS no other service works… unless I wanna use AIM 

      • Lack of MMS is a major benefit of Google Voice, imo. Most MMS messages are silly/useless, and I’d rather not have them anyway. If someone has reason to share a picture with me, use email, Picasa, or Google+.

    • Like your style! me 2, GTalk mostly but GVoice helps too 🙂 i can’t believe people would still pay for Texting when this is free, nothing beats free! 

  • Mack

    I have unlimited texting and it’s definitely easier for people to just use the number they call you on to text you instead of some other number or service. 

    • This is me too. I have google voice and can use it for texting, but why when it is simpler to just use the same number and still not pay anything due to having unlimited as part of my family plan.

    • Inquizitor

      But they can call you on your GVoice number, too! That’s why I only give out my Voice number.

      • Smart Smart ! See thats what i do, there’s no problem with just giving out your google voice number, after a little tweaking in the website, its simple to do! and FREE

        • LionStone

          Yep, that was one of the attractive points about GV that I really liked…about keeping your personal # more personal.