Text messaging is quickly becoming the favored mode of mobile correspondence. According to CTIA, Americans sent a trillion text messages in 2008, up from 81 billion in 2005. That growth far outpaces voices minutes, which hit 2.2 trillion in 2008 over 1.5 trillion in 2005. This is made possible by the introduction of text messaging bundles, which provide users with a large number of text messages far below the per-message cost -- which, for postpaid carriers, is usually at 20 cents or above.
Prepaid carriers have two advantages over their postpaid counterparts. First is a lower per-message rate. While postpaid carriers charge 20 or 25 cents per message, prepaid carriers are typically lower than that. There's no difficulty in finding a carrier which offers text messages at 10 cents each, and a little research reveals a few that go as low as 5 cents. Secondly, prepaid carriers also offer text bundles, oftentimes as cheap or cheaper than postpaid versions.
Here's a look at our featured pay as you go cell phone providers and where they stand in terms of text messaging rates.
Unlimited text messaging available for $20/month or under
(read the AT&T review) Those who don't plan to purchase a text messaging bundle would do well to stay away from AT&T, which charges 20 cents per message sent and received. Their bundles help bring down that cost. Both Pay As You Go and Pick Your Plan customers can purchase 200 messages for $4.99 per month (2.5 cents), 1,000 messages for $9.99 (1 cent), or unlimited messages for $19.99 per month.
(read the Jitterbug review) At first glance, it might seem like Jitterbug's monthly plans might not fit with a heavy text messager. That is actually not the case. Those who don't need a lot of voice minutes can sign up for the $15 monthly plan, which provides 50 anytime minutes. Unlimited text messaging is $3 on top of that, so you'll see a monthly bill under $20. So it's quite a good deal, actually. The only problem is the phone. It's made for older folks, so the buttons are big and the phone isn't very functional. You'll have to judge the trade-off for yourself.
(read the kajeet review) Kids love text messaging, so you can expect that the cell phone service for kids has a number of texting options. There are a few options with kajeet. They offer a number of options on top of their 10 cents per message standard rate, but the Special plan stands out. It costs $19.99 per month and includes 150 minutes and unlimited text messaging. That sounds about perfect for a heavy texter who doesn't talk much at all.
(read the US Cellular review) Good news: US Cellular offers free incoming text messages. This applies to both their monthly plans and pay-as-you-go plans. The bad news: outgoing messages are 25 cents each, so the average would be above 10 cents per message. They do have texting bundles, including $14.95 for unlimited messaging. That's definitely the way to go. While unlimited incoming text messages is nice, the price for outgoing is far too steep.
(read the Verizon prepaid review) Verizon's prepaid system involves a daily fee, which might seem like an instant turn-off for heavy text messagers. However, they do have two texting bundles. The first provides unlimited mobile-to-mobile texting and 250 out of network messages for $10 per month. The other is an unlimited texting plan for $20 per month. This works best with Verizon's basic plan, in which minutes cost 25 cents each, but with no daily fee.
(read the Virgin Mobile review) Virgin Mobile knows how much people like text messaging, and they've created many options for the heavy users. Their Texter's Delight plans offer minutes at 10 cents each, and then 1,000 messages for $14.99 or unlimited messages for $19.99. Pay-as-you-go customers can get 200 messages for $5, 1,000 messages for $10, or unlimited for $20. Those who already have a monthly plan can add unlimited texting for just $10. So not only does Virgin offer texting packs for all types of plans, they offer them at a relatively reasonable rate.
Unlimited texting, plus other services, over $20 per month
(read the Alltel review) While Alltel is a much-reduced company after the Verizon acquisition, those who remain in Alltel markets can still get a good deal on text messaging. Their basic rate is 10 cents per message, and they have two plans: 300 messages for $5 -- a little over a cent and a half per message -- or 750 messages for $10 -- about 1.3 cents each. These bundles expire at the end of each month, but that's standard fare. Alltel also has a pay per day option which offers unlimited text messaging. That costs 75 cents per day, plus 10 cents per minute for uncovered calls, so it might be expensive. It does, however, cover nights and weekends if you'd like, so if you can survive on a little less than 100 anytime minutes, you can enjoy unlimited nights and weekends, unlimited text messaging, and about 75 minutes for $30 per month.
read the Boost Mobile review) While Boost has a number of high-quality service plans, the texting-minded user might not find them the most attractive. There are no text messaging packages, just the normal 10 cents per message rate for pay-as-you-go users. They do offer the $1/day Chat Plan, which offers unlimited messaging, but $1 per day comes to $30 per month, so unless customers plan to take advantage of the unlimited mobile-to-mobile and unlimited nights and weekends, it might not be worth the charge. There is also the unlimited everything plan, which costs $50 per month. That is a good deal overall, but might not work for those who text heavily but don't talk much.
(read the Cricket review)The good news is that Cricket offers unlimited voice and text services. The bad news is that they're a regional carrier, so service isn't available nationwide. But if you're apt to stay in your locale, Cricket might be your texting solution. Their cheapest plan with unlimited messaging is $35. It also includes unlimited voice, including long distance, so you're set if you're a big texter and talker. Cricket's PAYGo $2 service has unlimited text messaging, but not long distance. So if you text heavily on some days and not at all on others, that could work out. However, you'd have to use your phone roughly half the days in the month to make that more worthwhile than the $35 unlimited package.
(read the MetroPCS review) MetroPCS offers service in the same manner as Cricket, so when you get unlimited text messaging you'll also get unlimited voice. Metro, though, is a bit more expensive than Cricket when it comes to messaging plans. Their $40 plan is the cheapest which comes with unlimited messaging, though customers of the $35 plan can add it for $3, so $38. It's not a huge difference, but in any case you might not even have a choice. Both Metro and Cricket are regional carriers, and they don't overlap in too many markets. It might be one or the other.
(read the Page Plus review) If 2,500 text messages is enough for you in a month, Page Plus has one of the best plans out there. It costs just $10.95 per month for those 2,500 messages, so you get a ton of messages at a relatively low cost. There's also a 5,000 message bundle for $19.95. If you talk and text a lot, there's the Unlimited Talk n Text plan for $39.95, which offers unlimited messaging and voice. Any of these plans can satisfy the heavy texter.
(read the PlatinumTel review) Like many other services, PlatinumTel offers an unlimited voice and text plan. Theirs is $40 per month, $30 for 15 days, and $10 for 5 days. Their Dot 10 plans also offer texting bundles. After the initial $10 charge, which comes with 100 anytime minutes, text bundles are $5 for 150, $10 for 500, $15 for 1,000, and $25 for 2,200. It does appear that there are cheaper companies, but if you're with PlatinumTel you can find a decent texting option.
(read the Straight Talk review) A new service introduced by Tracfone in 2009, Straight Talk offers low rates on voice and text bundles. They have two plans: $30 and $45. The $30 offers 1,000 minutes and messages, and the $45 offers unlimited both. This puts them around the areas of MetroPCS and Cricket. The difference is that Straight Talk operates on Verizon's nationwide network, giving it a clear advantage over the regional carriers. Those who can get by with 1,000 text messages will do well with the $30 plan.
(read the Consumer Cellular review) Traditional pay-as-you-go plans tend to work better for heavy text messagers, since they can avoid paying for unused minutes. Consumer Cellular offers only monthly plans, which might make text messaging pricey. There is an option to pay for no minutes monthly, but that means paying a $10 fee and 25 cents for each minute used -- which can get expensive even for infrequent callers. They do have text messaging plans, though: $2.50 for 100 messages and $5 for 500 messages. They have $10 and $20 plans as well, but they're at the same one-cent rate as the $5 plan. Not bad, but the heavy texter might find Consumer Cellular a bit expensive.
(read the Ready Mobile review) Ready Mobile has unlimited plans, but they do not come with unlimited messaging. Instead, for $60 customers can get unlimited voice and 400 text messages, hardly enough for the heavy texter. Customers can add another 200 messages for $4.99, but that's not quite worth it for the heavy texter. Other than htat it's 10 cents per text, so those who prefer text to talk will find a better deal elsewhere.
A la carte: 5 cents per message
(read the Net10 review) While minutes with Net10 are 10 cents each, text messages are half that. There isn't an unlimited text messaging bundle, so that hurts a bit, but five cent texting is a good deal. It means 500 text messages would cost $25 -- more than an unlimited plan, but still not the worst deal. If you're going to pay per text, Net10 is the clear choice.
(read the o2 Wireless review) The safe way to go with o2 is to purchase one of their cards and take advantage of their 5 cent text messaging rate. Again, this is among the best rates, if not the best rate, you'll find for pay-per-messages services. However, there's a loophole you might be able to exploit with this company. They have a nights and weekends package that costs $1 per day, only on days the phone is used. It includes unlimited text messaging, and the plan states that SMS usage does not incur the daily fee. It would appear that someone who does not talk often could get an excellent rate on text messaging with this plan.
(read the STi Mobile review) STi Mobile offers low per-minute rates, but charges daily access fees. For the heavy texter, these fees are usually not worth it. In any case, text messages are 5 cents in and out, so you can find the same rate with Net10 without paying the daily fee. If you do talk a lot, STi has a few decent options, but for those whose preferred communication medium is text, there are carriers with better deals.
(read the Total Call Mobile review) Total Call Mobile's service basically mirrors Net10 in usage. Minutes are 10 cents each and messages are 5 cents. If you're messaging a la carte, this is one of the better deals out there. Still, heavy texters will do better to find texting bundles with other carriers. Even though 500 messages are $25 per month, even with Straight Talk it's $5 more for 500 more messages, plus 1,000 voice minutes and Web.
A la carte: 10 cents per message
(read the T-Mobile prepaid review) T-Mobile is one of the few prepaid carriers which continues to offer variable pricing. They charge 10 cents to send a message and 5 cents to receive, making it difficult to accurately calculate your estimated usage. Still, we've seen a number of straight 5 cents per message carriers, so there are better a la carte deals. Plus, it bears repeating that heavy texters do much better with texting bundles. These are available with many carriers, and are much cheaper and more efficient than a la carte messaging.
(read the Tracfone review) Tracfone doesn't make it easy to calculate your monthly text messaging usage. It costs either a third or a half a minute to send and receive text messages, and because rates vary by card, it can get very complicated. It's best to consult the rule of thumb here: If you are a heavy text messager, you are better off finding a texting bundle. This goes especially for a carrier like Tracfone, which makes it hard to make accurate calculations of just how much text messages cost you.
(read the Mojo Mobile review) For Mojo Mobile, it's all about the night and weekend minutes, which they offer free with their anytime minute refills. Unfortunately, text messaging is not part of this focus. Messages are 10 cents, incoming and outgoing, so you're stuck with the standard industry rate. Plus, you have to top up at least once every month, making it an even less attractive option. It appears, though, that you can take advantage of 10 cent texting plus unlimited nights and weekends. So that's something to consider.
(read the Earth Tones review) Earth Tones isn't the best deal for heavy text messagers. Not only would you have to pay a $10 monthly fee, which provides no voice minutes, but text messages are 10 cents each. That's a decent rate for stand-alone text messages (though you can easily find better), but the lack of bundles makes this one of the tougher sells. If you send and receive 500 text messages per month, not unreasonable in this age, you'd have a $60 bill -- $10 for the service and $50 for your messages.
(read the Red Pocket Mobile review) Red Pocket Mobile is a niche MVNO focusing on cheap international calls to Asia and other destinations. This focus does not include text messaging -- or at least not for the heavy user. There are no bundles, and the a la carte option is 10 cents per message. It's the same rate for international text messages, so that's a plus, but probably not enough to satiate the heavy texter.