The NY Times’ Laura Holson reports on the latest battleground with spammers as they have figured out how to hit cellphone users with unsolicited and unwanted text messages, which depending on your service plan, you may well have to pay for.
American consumers are expected to receive an estimated 1.5 billion unsolicited text messages in 2008, according to Ferris Research, based in San Francisco, which tracks mobile messaging trends. That is nearly double what they received in 2006.
Of course that is a small percentage of the overall number of messages: an industry survey showed that consumers in the United States sent and received about 48 billion text messages in December alone. But for many people who are charged as much as 20 cents for an incoming message or are interrupted in the middle of dinner, even one is too many.
“The reason this really burns people up is because they have to pay for messages they don’t want, and they shouldn’t have to,” said Chris Murray, senior counsel for Consumers Union, a nonprofit group.
There’s some discussion of fighting with your carrier to get refunds, but more interesting is cutting off the spam before it arrives:
Most phone spam is actually e-mail that comes through gateways linking the Internet and cellphone networks, industry executives said.
Most wireless phones have a dedicated e-mail address. At AT&T, for example, it is a customer’s cellphone number followed by @text.att.net. Using computers, spammers create millions of possible number combinations, then send messages to those addresses.
All major communications companies give consumers the ability to thwart spam by changing the easily guessed e-mail addresses for their phones, or completely blocking messages coming from the Internet. They can do this by logging onto the company’s Web site and changing their preferences.
“I did that six months ago and I have not received any spam,” Mr. Melone of Verizon said. “No one, not even me, wants their cellphone to ring at 2 in the morning.”
The utility of blocking all messages from the Internet depends on how you use your phone, but changing the default email address is a precaution that everyone should take. And there’s more danger on the horizon:
But inconvenience is not the only downside; there is also the threat of viruses as phones become more like personal computers. Some companies are already preparing for this.
Last winter, Symantec, a maker of security software, introduced a product for smartphones that connect with the Internet to detect mobile threats, check for viruses and automatically delete spam or corral suspect texts in a folder.
Khoi Nguyen, a product manager for mobile security at Symantec, said the company developed the software mainly for Asia and Europe, where creative spammers try to steal credit card information or banking data through phones. He said he expected to see the same trend here in the next 6 to 12 months.
What percentage of mobile phone users do you think will install and correctly operate a mobile security package?
Sprint Nextel upped the ante in the $99.99 all-you-can-eat rate plan battle Thursday by introducing a service that includes unlimited voice as well as unlimited data and slew of premium services.
Called “Simply Everything,” the plan will give customers unlimited voice as well as unlimited data, text, e-mail, Web-surfing, Sprint TV, Sprint Music, GPS Navigation, and push-to-talk service for $99.99 a month. The company made the announcement during its fourth-quarter earnings call, in which the company also announced heavy financial and customer losses.
The new pricing plan is available to existing and new customers on both Sprint’s CDMA network as well as its Nextel iDEN network starting on Friday. Current customers will not have to renew or extend their contract to switch to the service.
Family pricing is $5 off on the second Simply Everything line, $10 off on the third and so on up to five lines. So how does it stack up compared to the competition?
Clearly Sprint’s offering offers customers the most bang for the buck. But some analysts have warned that if Sprint significantly undercut or added more services to the bundle for the same price that they could start a price war in wireless.
That may be bad news for the carriers, but customers won’t be complaining. There’s more in Sprint’s press release, but one worry with all this low price goodness is that Sprint’s poor financial condition will be exacerbated by the price war and throw a real crimp into WiMax deployment.
The trend towards multipurpose portable gadgets is undeniable for the simple reason that carrying multiple separate devices is very inconvenient. The problem, of course, is that an “all in one” gadget is generally inferior functionally to each to the individual units that it replaces. Sony Ericsson is trying to change that for the camera phone with its announcement of the K770 Cyber-shot: