From the NY Times (still free for now) Young cell users rack up debt, one dime message at a time.
In the last two years, text messages - which cell carriers generally limit to 160 characters - have become a rage among teenagers, who embrace the technology as yet another way to escape a boring class or stay in touch with friends.
But text-messaging, or texting for short, has a downside. It can be expensive. Although phone companies offer relatively inexpensive packages - like Verizon Wireless's $9.99 for 1,000 messages a month - industry experts say that carriers sometimes fail to draw customers' attention to the cost-saving deals, and that customers themselves, especially young people, often exceed the number of messages allowed. In those cases, sending a text message usually costs 10 cents; the cost of receiving one ranges from 2 to 10 cents.
Many high school and college students accustomed to sending unlimited instant messages on their computers do not adapt easily to text messaging's pay-per-message format, and end up with unexpectedly high bills when they get involved in keypad conversations that involve hundreds, even thousands, of messages a month. The results are angry confrontations with parents, long-term payment plans and the loss of cellphone privileges
Text-messaging has flourished for years in Europe and Asia, where it is immensely popular among young people. In the United States, activity was limited until 2002, when a breakthrough in the wireless market allowed short text messages to be sent among customers of the major cellular carriers. Previously, customers could send messages only to those who used the same carrier.
The service, known as S.M.S. (for Short Message Service), has since taken off. According to a recent report from Forrester Research, a company in Cambridge, Mass., that specializes in technology, Americans sent 2.5 billion text messages a month in mid-2004, triple the number sent in mid-2002
This is instant messaging anytime, anywhere. Find a way to communicate with this demographic using this medium and theres your advertising killer app.