Apple's iMessage: What to expect, good and bad

Every year, two trillion text messages are sent in the U.S. alone, and that can get expensive. But there may be a game-changing moment Wednesday.

Apple plans to roll out iMessage, a free service that's a hybrid of texting and instant messaging. The service enables Apple device owners to send messages with text, photos and video to other iPhone, iPod and iTouch owners over a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection.

John Abell, New York Bureau Chief for Wired magazine, says Apple is "sort of" privatizing texting.

Apple to launch iMessage on Wednesday, forget texting

"They're taking the money away from the carriers. They're making it easier for you to communicate with other people who have the same devices. So it's all about getting Apple devices in people's hands."

Abell said cell carriers stand to lose billions. "They're not making money off calls anymore," he said. "They're making money off selling you data, 3G network, 4G network. iMessage uses the 3G and 4G networks, but they're taking money out of the carriers' pockets."

The consumer, according to Abell, may be the winner of this round. He said, "If you don't need to have a texting plan, why would you?

He added, "Apple owns like five percent of the world's phone market, but that's pretty big."

Free texts to hurt carriers' bottom line?

But what's the catch -- when will you be charged for the iMessage service?

Abell said, "They're charging you a lot for capped service when you're not in a Wi-Fi hot spot. But texts are very, very small. They don't take up a lot of data. You can send pictures and videos, as well, and that will eat into your data plan. But that's just fine, because you're not paying that extra bit for everything you send or that extra 20 bucks on top of a data plan, which is what people are doing now."

A possible limitation of the service is its ease of use, Abell said. "The downside to this sort of proprietary approach is that this will deal only with other iPhones," he said. "And the beauty of texting is all you need to know is someone's phone number and that's it. So if I have your phone number, I can send you a text, and I don't have to think about it. With these separate networks, you kind of have to think about it a little bit."

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