AT&T Texting Plans Whittled to Unlimited and Pay-Per-Text

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On August 21, AT&T will once again “streamline” its text messaging plans, leaving only unlimited and pay-per-text options for new subscribers.

AT&T is removing a plan that offered 1,000 text messages for $10 per month plus 10 cents for additional messages. AT&T’s other texting prices will remain the same, at $20 per month for unlimited messages (or $30 per month for families) and 20 cents per text message without an unlimited plan (or 30 cents for MMS).

(MORE: Consumer Reports Names AT&T Worst Wireless Service Provider)

Existing customers will be able to keep whatever plan they’re already using, even if they upgrade to a new phone.

This is the second time AT&T has eliminated some of its text messaging plans this year. In January, the carrier stopped offering 200 messages for $5 per month and 1500 messages for $15 per month to new subscribers. Again, existing customers were grandfathered in to their old plans.

A representative for AT&T offered the following explanation to Engadget: “The vast majority of our messaging customers prefer unlimited plans and with text messaging growth stronger than ever, that number continues to climb among new customers.”

Don’t let that quote fool you into thinking AT&T needs to push people toward more expensive texting plans to pay for higher demand. As Public Knowledge pointed out in January, text messages cost very little to transmit. This is simply an attempt to siphon more money out of new subscribers. AT&T has every right to do so, of course,  but it doesn’t look good when T-Mobile—which AT&T wants to acquire—bundles unlimited text messaging with most of its plans at no extra charge.

The good news for smartphone users is that between Facebook, Twitter, IM apps and Apple’s upcoming iMessage, it may some day be possible to whittle down your own text messaging until you don’t need an unlimited plan. But when that happens, you can be sure carriers will find some other way to tip the scales in their favor.

MORE: What the AT&T & T-Mobile Acquisition Means for Everyone