Is iMessage Saving iPhone Users Money at Carriers' Expense?

When iMessage, Apple's alternative to text messaging, was introduced along with iOS 5, pundits were predicting it could hit the profits of carriers quite hard, and at the same time save texters a few bucks on their mobile plan.

The app allows iPhone, iPad or iPod touch users to exchange messages with each other over WiFi or 3G internet connections.

New York Times tech reporter Jenna Wortham has taken a closer look, albeit at a very small sample, to see whether this is indeed happening. On a personal note, she noticed that ever since she started using iMessage she's using around a third fewer text messages with her mobile carrier - from around 7,500 a month (yes - 7.5 thousand texts a month!) down to under 5,000.

But Wortham also noticed that her voice usage has been lower, down from around a thousand minutes monthly, pre-iOS 5, to around 600 after. On the other hand, data usage with the new Apple OS jumped from just under 2GB to just over 3GB per month.

Of course the drop in text messages is to be expected, especially as Apple makes things even easier for iDevice users, by automatically switching to iMessage when it senses that your texting buddy owns an iPhone as well.

The increased data usage is not due to excessive iMessaging, which requires negligible data, but is, as Jenna proposes, because of data sucking applications like Spotify while jogging, or Instagram for posting pictures while on the go, and the like.

While one might have thought users will save money by scaling down their monthly sms/text message allowance, carriers are adjusting their plans and looking to cash-in on data-heavy services and apps. Unlimited data plans are not so easy to come by nowadays.

This will mean as services like iMessage become more common, the humble text message will become increasingly less significant in relation to data plans and carrier profitability.