Because of the impersonal nature of SMS, it raises certain questions of etiquette -- namely, what kind of information is OK to send in a text instead of delivering it in person? Recently, several people have sought legal action after they were fired or notified of divorce proceedings via SMS.
Broadcast text messages have been used to rally political activists in Beijing and to mobilize young people for riots in Belfast. Recently, a contest pitted the efficiency of SMS against Morse code (the Morse coders won).
SMS Criticism and Alternatives
Despite their popularity, short messaging services have received some criticism. Here are a few of the disadvantages of SMS:
- You have to pay for it. Most wireless plans charge for a certain number of text messages a month. Some only charge for user-originated messages, while others charge for incoming messages as well. If you exceed your message allowance, you may be charged 10 cents per message, and those little charges can add up.
- Speedy message delivery is not guaranteed. During periods of high traffic, it might be minutes or even hours before a message gets through.
- It's strictly for sending text messages. SMS does not support sending pictures, video or music files.
Alternative messaging services allow for more elaborate types of messages. With EMS (Enhanced Messaging Service), you can send formatted text, sound effects, small pictures and icons. MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) allows you to send animations, audio and video files in addition to text. If your mobile phone is EMS- or MMS-enabled, you can use these standards just as you would SMS. However, the cost per message will be higher.
Another alternative to using SMS is using an instant messaging program, such as AOL IM, on your cell phone. This can be in the form of software that's pre-installed on your phone, or you can use WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) to access the Internet and sign into your IM account. WAP is a protocol that gives you small, simplified versions of web pages that are easily navigable on your mobile phone or PDA (check out How WAP Works for more information). You can use it to send instant messages or actual e-mails from your phone.
A common complaint about SMS is its inefficient delivery structure -- when the message center is backed up, messages take longer to reach their destination. To make message delivery faster, networks are using more new next-generation technologies such as GPRS (General Packet Radio Service).
To learn more about SMS and other forms of mobile communication, check out the links on the following page.