How Twitter could Kill SMS (and save us all)

I have a blackberry. I pay $30 for a data plan that will let me send as many emails as I want. Full emails. Long emails. Emails with content, pictures, punctuation and correctly spelled words even. This data plan does not cover SMS though. For that I have to pay extra, or pay 15 cents per text or a $10, $15 or $20 a month plan on top of my unlimited data.

Here is a great article on SMS bandwidth charges.

The short version: we are getting ripped off.

Here is where Twitter comes in. Or could, I should say. The intranets were abuzz a few months ago because there was a rumor that Apple was going to buy Twitter. (and about eight other companies, but topic at hand) This got me thinking. What in the hell would Apple want with Twitter?


And no, Apple didn’t buy them, and no, I don’t think they are planning this, but this was the idea I had, the thing I reasoned out as to what value Twitter could have to Apple. Here is the idea: Twitter replaces SMS. Instead of sending a text message to someone, you send a direct message to someone.

Now, granted, this is a better idea for the data plan phones. Blackberries, iPhones and Androids all have a data plan and could add on a Twitter client to have this functionality (and should, damnit!). The normal phones would need some help.
The idea would be that a normal phone, one that would have to use SMS anyway, could SMS Twitter, something that can already be done, to bridge the gap between an older SMS phone and a newer Twitter phone. This isn’t as easy as it could be though.

The connection between the address book and Twitter still needs to be made on most of the platforms. I need to be able to find “mom” in my phone book, and hit message. Not what I’d need to do currently, which is find “twitter” and then type “d momstwitter message” If twitter clients could make this link, then sending a DM would be as easy as sending an SMS.

Then this provides all the advantages of SMS and all the advantages of Twitter at once. Need to contact someone? Just send a DM. It will act as a tweet and as an SMS at the same time. You can text someone (twext?) from your computer, and likewise they could answer from there. (something Google Voice is working on)

You’d have a telephone number independent way of mobile communication. Walk away from your carrier, your phone, hell, even dare to go out of the country without impunity. Your twitter account is still yours. 

Then as more and more phones have data plan options, more phone users can get off of SMS. With SMS plans as high as $20 a month and data as low as $30, the advantages that SMS brought once are slipping away. New phones will be more internet capable and features that were once only for expensive phones will be as common as cameras are today.

And maybe this won’t save us all, but it would be a step in the right direction.

Oh, and if you have a smart phone, email, IM, anything but SMS when you can.

Blackberry Storm – A biased review

Let’s get this out of the way. I am a Mac guy, have been for years (except for some ‘experiments’ with windows in college, but isn’t that what college is for?). I wanted an iPhone before they were out. And, I want one now. There are three reasons why I will not have an iPhone: AT&T. Say what you want about Verizon, but their service is still the top. If I had an iPhone, I’d be greatful to get signal where I live.

Ok, so that is out of the way. I got a Storm on the first day. This was my first touch screen phone and my first Blackberry. The first day I owned it I spent learning how typesure keypad works and how to navigate the Blackberry OS. Everywhere I go I get “is that the new Blackberry?” and people asking about it, what I think, etc.

Here is what I think. I love it.

Let’s talk about the touch part, since that is the part that sets it aside from the iPhone, Instinct and any of the others. The screen registers your fingers as soon as you touch it. Keys will change to blue as you run your finger over them, but nothing will happen. You have to actually press the screen down for something to occur. The entire screen is a button. This reduced the number of mistakes I was making compared to the iPod Touch significantly.

There are three keyboard layouts. In vertical mode you can get either a SureType pad, or a normal phone pad (hit 6 three times for “O”). Suretype is RIM’s condensed QWERTY keyboard found on the Pearl. I was sure that I’d never figure out how to type with two letters on one key. A guy in line with me gave me some advice which has worked. “Just type,” he said, “the phone will figure out what you are trying to say.” And he was right. After a few days I can use it with some proficiency. The advantage is you can type with one hand in this manner. The other keyboard is the full QWERTY. You get this when you turn the phone on its side. Unlike the iPhone, however, you can get this keyboard in any program where you type. Actually you can pull up a keyboard at anytime by pulling it from the menu.

Speaking of menus, everything is pretty much menu driven. The ‘berry’ button (which I am sure has a much more technical name) opens the menu. You either press it again to select the highlighted option, or you select the one you want by clicking the screen.

The browser so far seems to work quite well. I used it the first day to show off the new Star Trek trailer from YouTube. Playback was good, even if the video was a bit stretched to fit the screen. Now, if you tap the screen, that is touch it but don’t push down, the browser will zoom. A feature that is useful at times, but too easy to do accidently. While the ‘real’ browser experience is nice, like my experience with the iPhone, in the end, mobile websites still work the best.

Messaging is where the Blackberry shines. There are reviews everywhere about Blackberry messaging, and from my experience, they are right. Coming from a Windows Mobile phone, it was a vast improvement. I have four email addresses set up on the phone, and push email is my new favorite thing. There are rumors of calDAV support coming to the Blackberry, which would allow syncing with Yahoo! and Google calendars (or any other calDAV ones as well).

I’ve used the media part a few times. It works pretty well. I do wish the volume control was a bit more precise. The screen is great for video and pictures. The phone has a 3.2 Megapixel camera with a flash. The pictures are good, even though there is a delay as the camera focuses. The phone can also take video at a decent resolution. Not sure I’d make a movie with it, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about trying.

The OS is a multitasking OS. This means that if you have one program open, you can open others without having to close the first one. Now, this has had me digging though folders trying to figure out what an alert on the top of the screen was. (I had gotten an IM)

Ok, and as a final note, the blackberry can copy and paste. So there.