AT&T kills cheaper texting plan for $20 unlimited package

AT&T is drastically rejiggering its text plan. And not everyone is happy about it.

AT&T is rejiggering its texting plans. And depending on how much you text, you could be in for a bit of wallet pinch.

If you're thinking about buying the new iPhone 5 through AT&T, or even if you're eyeing one of those old-fashioned AT&T flip phones (see above), it's time to listen up. Beginning on Sunday – as in Aug. 21 – AT&T is scrapping its 1,000 texts for ten bucks plan, and replacing it with a plan that offers unlimited texts for $20. Users who don't want the unlimited plan can opt to pay 20 cents per text.

Another caveat: Current AT&T subscribers are grandfathered in, so you can stick with whatever plan you selected when you signed your contract. "The vast majority of our messaging customers prefer unlimited plans and with text messaging growth stronger than ever, that number continues to climb among new customers," AT&T said in a statement today.

Unsurprisingly, the news has not been received particularly warmly in the tech blogosphere. Over at Gizmodo, Sam Biddle says – hyperbole alert – that AT&T is in the midst of perpetrating "an outrageous, gigantic scam." As Biddle correctly notes, it doesn't cost AT&T much to transmit your text message. Your text message doesn't suck up a lot of mobile bandwidth, unlike, for instance, a YouTube video or a big JPG file.

"AT&T offers a 2 gigabyte per month phone data plan for $25. By breaking this down, we can find out how much they think each text's worth of data costs. And according to this value, when you're using the same amount of data to send a text without a messaging plan, they're charging you 100,000 times more. Yes," Biddle writes. "Blink a few times and read that again." The specifics are detailed in the full Gizmodo break-down, which is well worth reading in full.

But if you're in the mood for something even more vitriolic, check out the MG Siegler diatribe over at TechCrunch. (The piece is affectionately titled "My old friend, AT&T, still bringing the scumbaggery after all these years.") Siegler, like Biddle, points out that text messages are easy money for carriers – "a revenue stream of billions of dollars for carriers, with profit margins approaching 100 percent for each message."

But now, there are some new players on the scene, and AT&T is getting defensive. "[S]tartups like GroupMe, which allows users to bypass SMS and use data to send short messages, are gaining popularity," Siegler notes. "Meanwhile, massive players like Google and Facebook have introduced their own solutions for bypassing SMS." Gotta milk the cash while you can, in other words. Thoughts on the new text plan? Drop us a line in the comments section.

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