What Does Apple iOS 5 iMessage Mean to Cell Phone Companies?

One of small surprising announcements during Apple’s WWDC keynote yesterday was iMessage for the iPad and iPod touch.

iOS 5 Features: iMessage

iMessage for iOS 5 will let iPhone, iPod touch and iPad users send unlimited text messages via WiFi or 3G to anyone else using a iOS 5 enabled device. These messages can be text, photos, video, locations or contacs information. Like the upcoming Windows Phone “Mango”, iOS 5’s iMessage includes group messages. You can also check sent messages using red receipts. It will also provide presence information by letting you know when someone is typing to you.

Google Voice has the advantage of providing unlimited text (sending and receiving) from any source. However, it is currently limited to Android smartphones and the iPhone. The Google Voice app does not even show up in Android Market when viewed from an Android table.

Despite iMessage’s limitation of only communicating with other iOS 5 devices, it will probably be extremely heavily used since it opens up text and multimedia messaging to milions of iPod touch and iPad users may not be aware of what Google Voice can do. Moreover, Google Voice’s messaging is limited to plain text.

The mobile carriers are left almost entirely out of the loop except as a data contuit for 3G and, sometimes, WiFi. Text messaging is possibly the most expensive data service at a cost per character level. So, this is huge potential revenue growth opportunity loss for them. Do not be surprised if you see attempts by mobile carriers to, for example, block this service from 3G use.