Why Does AOL Instant Messenger Mobile Use Text Messages Without Telling Me?

Heather tells Consumerist that has AOL Instant Messenger installed on her smartphone, but doesn’t really use it. Lately, she’s left the program running more often, and made an alarming discovery: she was charged for 800 text messages, even though she didn’t send 800 text messages. The culprit? AIM, of course. Each IM to and from her phone was charged as a text message.

I feel like I’m reasonably savvy when it comes to my phone, but I am in a pickle where I’m getting charged for messages I had no idea were text messages.

I have AIM on my T-mobile Android phone and have used it from time to time. Once I set it up (years ago!), it opens automatically when I restart my phone. This was never a problem, I’d turn AIM off (because of the annoying messages I would get regarding chats I had already read on my computer) but with my phone battery getting less and less powerful and my phone shutting off more between charges, AIM has been on more than it’s been off.

So when I logged into my account to update my credit card info and saw that I had 800+ texts on my 400 text a month plan I was shocked! Turns out AIM messages count as text messages? There is no paid service warning when it automatically starts, the messages do not appear in my text message folder, they are separate. I had no idea!

I am on auto pay, and each month my bill is about the same amount given a little bit here and there which I don’t fret so I don’t pour over my bill to see what’s up. I also don’t get a paper bill, so it’s just an email. I had no reason to look and see that these messages have been occurring and counting towards my limit for months since I wasn’t going over my limit or if I did it was by hardly anything and I thought it was just 411 usage charges.

I have called customer service and they won’t credit me the $80, instead they want me to switch plans to cover it. I feel like if something is a paid service it should be made VERY obvious at the outset. Am I drunk here or does this just seem wrong? I’ve been with them for almost 5 years!

What do you think, Hive Mind? Does it seem logical to you that an Internet service would gobble up your text message allotment?

Comments

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  1. BannedInBrittan says:

    Step 1: remove AIM
    Step 2: change plan to cover overage of texts and then switch it back down later.

    Used to do the same thing when I’d go over my minutes/texts.

    • dangerp says:

      T-mo extends your contract when you change your plan. I know because I was fully expecting to upgrade my phone next month, but found out yesterday that my contract isn’t up until March, because I added minutes.

      Surprising, since t-mo is usually more consumer friendly than other cellcos. Verizon, despite their other faults, will let you change your plan even multiple times a month without having to be concerned about your contract term changing.

      • BannedInBrittan says:

        if she set up AIM on the phone ‘years ago!’ as she said she should no longer be under contract.

      • aaron8301 says:

        T-mobile only extends your contract when you switch to a promotional plan. Get a regular, more expensive plan, no contract extension. (Previous 6 year customer here.)

      • Timbojones says:

        The 2-year upgrade timer should be completely orthogonal to the 2-year contract extension. In other words, you qualify for a subsidized phone based on the last time you bought a subsidized phone, not based on when your contract expires.

    • qwickone says:

      Also, if it was pre-installed on her phone, she probably can’t get it off without rooting it.

      • ellemdee says:

        T-Mobile allows you to block specific types of messages (instant, picture, etc) without blocking all messages. Alternatively, the OP could have deleted her AIM login info from the phone so it no longer would have been able to retrieve messages.

      • ariven says:

        Even if her phone was locked down to the point where she cant remove it (with an android, thats not always the case), she most certainly can either 1) tell it to not run at start up or 2) take her login information out so it cant log in and consume messages.

  2. chaelyc says:

    It doesn’t seem logical, however the biggest issue is that it’s not the norm & therefore would require some sort of warning or reminder to consumers, ideally.

  3. Daemon Xar says:

    Huh, I just got an AT&T bill that suggests that I’ve send 600+ text messages in the last month (or approximately 20 a day). I average maybe four or five, so now I’m curious to find out if something similar is happening with my phone . . .

  4. Aedilis says:

    “I see your complaint about being duped into text message fees and will raise you an upsell.”

    Seriously though, I doubt you’ll get your money from T-Mobile. They have you under contract, and more importantly, they have the ‘out’ in that it’s the AIM client’s design to send them via SMS instead of over your data connection.

    Sucks all the way around, but the best thing you can do in the future is consider this a lesson learned and be vigilant about stuff like this.

  5. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Haven’t AIM messages been considered texts since, like, ever?

    • ShyamasriPera2 says:

      Yep.

      • devwar says:

        I remember from when I used to use AIM Mobile on my dumbphone that every message came in as a text message.

        • dangerp says:

          Except that this is an app. On a smartphone. With a data connection. There is absolutely no reason to still use the antiquated and expensive sms system when there is a better, easier, and cheaper option available.

          • Brian says:

            Sure there is. It’s called being in bed with mobile carriers, or just not caring. AIM, Yahoo and MSN have supported SMS for some time now, and it’s still the easiest (though not the cheapest for users) way to do that, compared to connecting with IM servers over a data connection that’s usually tenuous at best and tends to break connections to those servers in a way that the servers don’t like.

          • me_grimlok says:

            It’s actually cheaper and preserves more bandwidth to use SMS. Well, cheaper for the provider. I knew about AIM using SMS since I had a Razr, which was like 6 years ago. Can’t remember how I found out but I think it may have been in the splash screen when you first enter your login.

    • Aedilis says:

      I make my own AIM text messages in my basement.

      Come to think of it, it sounds creepy when I say that.

    • LatherRinseRepeat says:

      Yup. The problem is that this isn’t clearly stated anywhere. At least for ATT. I actually found out on Howard Forums years ago.

      Best thing to do is never use the AIM or Yahoo Instant Messenger that was pre-installed by the carrier. Use third party apps instead, like Trillian. They offer a version for pretty much all the major smartphone platforms now.

    • supersat says:

      No. The T-Mobile Sidekick has had an AIM client from day 1, and it never charged IMs as text messages. The fact that they’re now charging you per IM five years later is just greed.

  6. Harry Manback says:

    Why do people still use 411? Goog 411 is free and just as effective.

  7. obits3 says:

    Glad I have Sprint with unlimited text messages. If I were you I would remove the AIM app, pay T-mobile the high amount for one month and contact AOL. If AOL made the app, then the liability falls on AOL.

    • ShyamasriPera2 says:

      Why would AOL be liable? She didn’t understand what she was using, not AOL’s problem.

      • obits3 says:

        I am using the “what would a reasonable person assume” standard.

        1. From what I understand, AIM was started on computers that used data (not SMS).
        2. It is reasonable for a person to assume that their smartphone that uses data would use data for the AIM app (because that is what AIM uses on a PC).
        3. The OP said that “There is no paid service warning when it automatically starts, the messages do not appear in my text message folder, they are separate.”

        Thus, a reasonable person would assume that AIM (which uses data on a computer) would continue to be a data using app (not SMS).

        • ShyamasriPera2 says:

          It’s more reasonable for a person to read the details of the package they are signing up for.

          Also, most people do not know the difference between data, SMS and IM; in fact, in usage/perception: IM and SMS are closer to each other, so it makes more sense that she should have known IM == SMS.

          • obits3 says:

            Yes and no. I went from a very dumb phone to a smart phone. I had the AIM app for a while and I DID think that it was data (not SMS). Why did I think that? Because I had an icon marked “Messages” that came with the phone. That “Messages” icon = text messages.

            Why should I have to assume that other things are SMS if the app doesn’t say anthing? Considering the number of apps that use data, I would say that all apps that use SMS should be clearly labbled or say “standard messaging rates apply.”

        • ShyamasriPera2 says:

          And that still doesn’t explain why AOL would be liable… she should have understood what she’s using. Ignorance is not an excuse.

          The AOL app definitely warns you if it’s using SMS, like most people, she probably clicked away that notice.

          • obits3 says:

            If it did warn her then AOL should not be liable. If it did not warn her AOL should be liable.

            I hope that covers every angle.

            • ShyamasriPera2 says:

              Nope, it doesn’t work like that… it’s not AOL that’s imposing the charges, it’s the service provider, she needs to talk to them. AOL provided the software as is, if that means you have to spend extra $ when you use it, that’s your problem not AOL’s.

              E.g. is motorola liable for not disclosing to use that using their product might cost $? Didn’t think so.

              • obits3 says:

                If your logic is true, then why does American Idol say something like “Standard text message rates apply”? They do this so people know that they will be charged by their carrier.

                What if I give you a program that shoots a duck at somebody’s farm every time you send a message (but I don’t tell you about the duck shooting)? Are you responsible or is the person who developed the app responsible?

                • ktetch says:

                  Thats because it’s a service that has charges per-use, and it’s a requirement of the FCC (IIRC) that such services are required to advertise the cost.

  8. RayanneGraff says:

    This is actually pretty common for chat apps like that. 9 out of 10 chat apps that I’ve used, all the way back to the days of my Treo 650, used texting to send/receive messages. It always gave me a warning about it too, something to the effect of “Please make sure you have an adequate or unlimited text messaging plan with your service provider”.

  9. Shtetl G says:

    I use fring on my smart phone:

    http://www.fring.com/default.php

    It uses the wifi on my phone to send IM messages. Also supports google talk. I’m not sure if it is compatible with all smart phones but if it is it should take care of that specific problem.

    • probablykate says:

      I tried fring a year or two ago on a windows mobile phone on AT&T and it still counted as a text message for me

  10. Hi_Hello says:

    When I had aim or any messaging apps on my phone, I used it once or twice and checked my next bill to see if it comes up as text.

    I didn’t trust what I read on the internet and didn’t trust the phone company to tell me the truth.

    I blame her for not trying to be more inform about her phone and plan because she is a reasonable savvy phone person.

    side note: I still don’t understand how email which I get instantly counts as data but text message counts as ‘text’. I cancelled my text message on my phone and email people’s text address. Save me money and I still get use it the same way.

    • ShyamasriPera2 says:

      Make sure your friends don’t get charged extra for email to sms (which is what you’re doing).

      • Hi_Hello says:

        hahah i know. they they one with the txt plan. if they dont want me to txt them, they will tell me. only one friend told me to stop.

  11. ShyamasriPera2 says:

    “but with my phone battery getting less and less powerful and my phone shutting off more between charges, AIM has been on more than it’s been off.”

    This doesn’t make any sense… why would AIM be on more if the phone is off?

    • Doubts42 says:

      because she is turning her phone on and off more. Aim is in her startup menu. so it is turned on and she neglects to turn it off.

      • ShyamasriPera2 says:

        Hmm, I see, thanks. Why would she not have uninstalld it then if it was so annoying?

        • Eyeheartpie says:

          Have you ever tried to uninstall an app that your cell company installed on your phone? It’s not trivial. It usually involves rooting and removing the application via a root explorer type program.

  12. Silverhawk says:

    Is the OP certain they’re using the official AIM app? I find nothing in the app disclosure (during installation) that says anything about utilizing SMS to send messages. Under the Network Communication heading, it only requires “Full Internet access”. I read that as ‘data’, as SMS would be listed separately.

    If in doubt, switch to another IM app. I can recommend eBuddy. It doesn’t use SMS, at least not for Facebook, MSN and Google Talk protocols. I can’t imagine it’s different for AIM protocol.

    For the record, I’m on a Droid 2, Android v2.2.

    • Destron says:

      You made the same sheep move she did :) You did not read the EULA and just clicked OK and went about your business. Enlighten yourself :

      http://wap.aol.com/android/aim/eula.txt

      Even pre installed it would have to make you agree to the EULA on first run.

      • Silverhawk says:

        If the app required SMS, it must be disclosed at installation time as one of the actions/services it requires on the phone (prior to presenting the EULA). It is not listed as a requirement. All apps in the Market must do that. See my other posts – she is obviously not using the official AOL AIM app.

        The EULA is using some boilerplate language, probably because their lawyers are too lazy to adapt it to a specific platform.

  13. jasw says:

    Delete the AIM app if you barely use it. And immediately switch to a new plan that will cover the overage and then switch back later. It’s better than paying the extra $80. I have AIM on my t-mobile phone as well and have never had this issue, but i have unlimited texting.

  14. James says:

    another reminder to never use “auto pay” – where companies can access your checking accounts and take money from it.

    I never pay a bill until I see what the amount due is, then arrange to pay it electronically via ME sending it. Not them taking it.

    • One-Eyed Jack says:

      I have auto pay from T-Mobile and get an email reminder each month when the bill is due. However, the email does not list the amount of the bill — you must log in to your account to see that info. I just wish they’d put it in my billing email. Most of my other utilities/services work that way.

  15. MaelstromRider says:

    I thought it was common knowledge that wireless providers consider IMs the same as text messages.

    • Silverhawk says:

      Not in this day & age, with smartphones having constant data connections. Especially an Android device like the OP’s. I’ve tried a few different IM apps on my Droids, and NONE have used SMS.

  16. andyg8180 says:

    “Theres an app for that!” the main reason i never hooked up my cell phone to FB or AOL is because they tell you that it sends it as a txt msg… pretty sure they get a kickback from the wireless companies

  17. Silverhawk says:

    By contrast, Handcent, a popular SMS app on Android, says:

    “Your messages:
    receive SMS”

    “Services that cost you money:
    send SMS messages”

    These are disclosures that EVERY Android app has to display after a user clicks “Install” and then requires the user to hit “OK” to confirm before actually installing.

    I suspect the OP is using an AIM/IM app provided by either T-mobile as a pre-install, or a 3rd party app.

    • njack says:

      or just clicked through the install process without paying attention to what services the app uses.

      • Silverhawk says:

        My post was supposed to be a reply to my post further up. But my point is, the Android AIM app FROM AOL does NOT use SMS, it does not disclose it, only that it requires a data connection. The OP must be using a different app.

        • Destron says:

          This is from the official AOL APP on android

          http://wap.aol.com/android/aim/eula.txt

          • Destron says:

            Also, as a test, since i installed the damn thing I just sent a few messages on it, and indeed my messaging counter on the Tmo website increments with every one I send. I have unlimited texting so it would not matter to me,

            • Silverhawk says:

              I just installed it too, and it is not racking up my SMS counter. What carrier are you with? I’m on VZW. Perhaps there’s a variation of the app by carrier?

              • Destron says:

                I am on T-Mobile. Also with further testing I have found that with wifi or 3g available it does not use messaging. If I’m using edge it uses messages. I typically turn 3g off unless I’m using it.

              • Destron says:

                I am on T-Mobile. Also with further testing I have found that with wifi or 3g available it does not use messaging. If I’m using edge it uses messages. I typically turn 3g off unless I’m using it.

              • Destron says:

                I am on T-Mobile. Also with further testing I have found that with wifi or 3g available it does not use messaging. If I’m using edge it uses messages. I typically turn 3g off unless I’m using it.

              • Destron says:

                I am on T-Mobile. Also with further testing I have found that with wifi or 3g available it does not use messaging. If I’m using edge it uses messages. I typically turn 3g off unless I’m using it.

    • Destron says:

      If course if i installed Hancent or Chomp, both with SMS in the name, I would assume the use SMS :)

  18. teke367 says:

    You say you set it up “years ago,” are you still under contract? If so, threaten to cancel, or actually cancel. Perhaps they’ll refund the $80 to keep you, if not, you’re better off without them.

    • Destron says:

      Well, considering the G1, the first android phone is just approaching its 2 year anniversary, “years ago” = about 2 years ago at most.

      • jefeloco says:

        I was thinking the same thing since I worked in one of their call centers at the time of the big release. Just barely hitting two years now…

  19. eugenegh2 says:

    I’ve seen that problem on older phones without data plans. Any message or action within AIM is its own text message. Any recent phone should be using the data connection for instant messaging.

  20. Destron says:

    I just installed the AOL app just to check it out, when you start it up the first time you have to agree to the EULA before you can use it.

    8. ACCESS. You must provide at your own expense the equipment, Internet connections and wireless devices or wireless services to access and use the Applications and the products associated with such Applications. We do not guarantee that the Applications will work with all wireless devices or wireless service plans, at all times, or in all geographic locations. When you use the Applications, you may incur certain charges from your wireless carrier according to the terms of your carrier agreement, including without limitation, standard fees for data, messaging and wireless access, SMS and MMS messaging services. Please check with your carrier to verify whether there are any such fees that may apply to you. YOU ARE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY COSTS YOU INCUR TO ACCESS OR USE THE APPLICATIONS THROUGH YOUR WIRELESS DEVICE.

    You acknowledge that the Applications provide features that include instant messaging, status updates of your contacts, posts, alerts, reminders, updates, instant messaging preferences, messaging communications and location. You authorize us to communicate with you regarding the Applications using SMS, MMS, text message or other electronic means to your wireless device. You acknowledge and agree that information about your usage of the Applications may be communicated to us by third parties, including without limitation your wireless carrier. You agree to receive messages from the Applications on any or all configured devices. When you access the Applications on your wireless device, we may obtain information from your wireless carrier about the type of device you are using. We may use this information to notify you concerning the types of features and products from the Applications that may be available to you on your device. Certain features of the Applications may require our collection of the phone number of your device. We may associate that phone number to the mobile device identification information; however, we will not use that number for telemarketing. Some wireless carriers in the USA and other jurisdictions may be required to operate a system that will pinpoint the physical location of devices that use their service. Depending on the provider, we may automatically receive this information and you consent to any such disclosure.

    If you elect to use certain location or pinpoint based services (such as, GPS assisted navigation instruction, wireless tower location, triangulation or other available location technologies), we must periodically receive your location in order to provide such location-based services to you. By using the Applications’ location based services, you authorize us to: (a) locate your hardware; (b) record, compile and display your location; and (c) publish your location to third parties designated by you by means of location publication controls available within the Applications (e.g., settings, user preferences). As part of the Applications, we may also collect and store certain information about our users, such as, users’ wireless mobile subscriber ISDN and/or IMEI numbers (as applicable) and users’ network access identifier information. This information will be used to provide you the services accessed through the Applications. We may use third party providers to help provide services through mobile systems and such providers may use the information in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Certain services offered through the Applications may allow you to adjust your privacy settings; please review any information or FAQ area that accompanies such application for more details and instructions.

    Here the whole thing

    http://wap.aol.com/android/aim/eula.txt

  21. milty456 says:

    Do you have data plans? I can’t fathom if you do how this is possible. AIM and other chat clients are separate software programs that use a phones data connection to send these messages…they do not go use the SMS protocol(afaik).

    Unless AIM teamed up with TMobile to create an app that uses SMS when IM’s are sent received, this doesn’t seem possible…if they did do that…it’s very wrong and deceiving.

    • Destron says:

      AOL has always uses SMS, its a throwback to dumb phones before data was the norm. I had it on my blackberry and it used sms then, and so did msn.

  22. Destron says:

    Well, considering the G1, the first android phone is just approaching its 2 year anniversary, “years ago” = about 2 years ago at most.

  23. probablykate says:

    Does anyone have a IM app that really doesn’t use SMS? Or does it vary via phone/provider? I had a windows mobile smartphone on AT&T and tried fring and it charged as a text. I haven’t tried anything since I got the Droid Incredible with Verizon.

    • Destron says:

      I use IM Plus – bought the pro version. Its an all in one that does the most popular.

    • moyawyvern says:

      I have the Google Talk that come with my Droid and I downloaded Meebo IM for regular chatting. I just checked the permissions for both of them, and neither mention texts at all, just full internet access. This is good since I only have 500 texts a month.

  24. jefeloco says:

    It is a problem with AIM, not T-Mobile. There are several chat/IM clients that use text messages instead of data, it shouldn’t be up to T-Mobile to tell you which type of data (text vs. data) the program uses if YOU install it on your own device. I don’t like being anti-OP but Consumerist needs to start posting weekly “Pay attention to the details before purchasing/subscribing/installing” write ups to avoid this…

  25. chiieddy says:

    It’s stated very clearly when you first start the app the first time that the messages are SMS. If you want to use data and send IMs, either use GTalk OR Meebo IM from the Android Market.

    This was a well publicized item when Android first came out on the G1 so it really shouldn’t take people by surprise 2 years later.

  26. Watcher95 says:

    Step 1: Learn how to use your phone
    Step 2: See step 1

  27. scurvycapn says:

    This is definitely not the official AIM app. AOL didn’t release the official AIM app for Android until February of this year (“I installed it years ago!) As mentioned, the official application does not require permissions for SMS, only internet access. I have had this app installed and I don’t incur SMS charges.

    Does any research go into these articles before posting them?

  28. aaron8301 says:

    WARNING: Blame the OP post ahead.

    “I feel like I’m reasonably savvy when it comes to my phone”

    Obviously she’s not; back in the day ALL cell phone IM clients operated this way, so this shouldn’t be a surprise that AIM still does (especially considering it’s AIM – they’re not exactly a leader in technology).

    “I have AIM on my T-mobile Android phone and have used it from time to time. Once I set it up (years ago!)… “

    A little exaggerating? Android has only been out for barely two years. On the contrary, if she’s had it set up for years, how did she NOT notice AIM was using texts?

    “I never look at my bill and I use auto-pay.”

    So you’re doing the two things that we Consumerists tell everyone NOT to do. Why did you even bother sending in your story?

    Sorry folks, I’m having a bout of ignorance intolerance today. I think I need more coffee.

  29. creativecstasy says:

    Huh, interesting. I am 100% confident that neither my current nor previous phone considered AIM messaging to be texts. They are both data. However, when I am not online and someone IMs me, it forwards to my phone. Now that is a text message, no doubt about it. Messaging through an app is pure data.

  30. coren says:

    I think they might be trying to cheaply cover you this month, as a plan that covers that many texts is surely less than 80 additional dollars

  31. outlulz says:

    This happened with my old cell phone. It had AIM mobile installed and I didn’t find out until the first bill that every AIM message was really a text message.

  32. Piddles says:

    This was an issue for me when I used the native android AIM app on my G1. When I switched to the one from the Android Market, I was no longer docked text messages.

  33. JakeChance says:

    Actually IMs to a phone have always been text messages. It’s how they were able to implement this on “feature” phones ages ago.

  34. Cactusjack_1999 says:

    I’m looking at my Droid right now, with the AIM App in my settings…and there is NOTHING regarding the usage of SMS. Here’s the app and it’s given permissions from AppBrain: http://www.appbrain.com/app/aim/com.aol.mobile.aim

    No where is it mentioned that you get docked for SMS. Heck even did a test with the app that’s on my phone (Which I had to download, and did NOT come on my phone preinstalled) and my text message count did not increase.

    Here’s somethign she might wanna look into: http://forums.pinstack.com/f223/t_mobile_aim_etc_is_sms_help-107008/

    If she’s using the T-Mobile version of the App, then she’s getting screwed because it does in fact use SMS. If she acctually downloaded the real AIM app from the Market, then she wouldn’t be having this problem.

  35. seanism says:

    Depends on the type of phone / version of AIM. AIM can either install as a program that and you send messages over data or it can just use SMS messages.

    Also you can configure AIM from the desktop client to forward new IMs to your phone over SMS..

    You probably set something inadvertently.

  36. diagoro says:

    Sucks that wireless companies are still gouging customers this way. While related to text messaging, it’s much more of a fluid conversation, with exclamations, etc.

    I can only imagine the ‘live’ billing cycle during the conversation
    “hi” – $.10
    “what’s up” – $.10
    “nothing” – $.10
    “lol”- $.10
    “me too”- $.10
    “:)”- $.10

  37. jayelle says:

    I have an IM service on my Verizon LG enV3 and it clearly states when you download the program that it uses SMS and charges as if for texts. I also have a data plan; the two are completely separate. It would be easy to miss the warning when you download the app, I suppose, but it’s definitely there on Verizon.

    It’s surprising to me that T-Mobile doesn’t seem to have a similar warning.

  38. tyr888 says:

    I only read the first few comments, im on my phone.. so if someone else already mentioned it, just ignore me.

    there are different mobile social network clients. there are ones that use data instead of text. like palringo and nimbuzz. so if you have internet but not a text plan, there you go. or if you only have like a mere 5,000 text messages per month. not that many people have internet but no text that I know of, but.. whatever.

    if you have no internet data plan though, I guess you should expect text messages.

  39. ellemdee says:

    T-Mobile is very good about letting you backdate a plan or add-on change to cover overage (since a higher plan is usually cheaper than paying overage rates) IF you call before your bill cycle ends.

    That said, I’ve been with T-Mobile for years and I’ve always been aware that T-Mobile’s messaging bundles cover messaging – all types of messaging, whether it be text, picture, video or instant. They are very clear that an IM is considered a message: “Send a message—whether you text, IM, or send a picture message, it’s quick, quiet, and easy. (Standard messaging rates may apply.)” They also specify that instant messages are chargeable at a rate of $0.20 each or can be used with a plan w/ messaging. You can also log into your account and block certain types of messages without blocking all messages. I understand how easy it would be to accidentally leave AIM on and get stuck with these charges, but TMO is being more than accommodating my offering to switch the OP to a higher plan (that the OP could remove the next month) which would be cheaper than paying overage rates. T-Mobile is straightforward about what constitutes a message and they don’t exactly hide this information in the fine print – it’s clearly posted online.

    http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/addons/services/information.aspx?PAsset=Messaging&tp=Svc_Tab_Messaging
    http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/addons/services/information.aspx?PAsset=Messaging&tp=Svc_Tab_InstantMessaging

  40. heldc says:

    I had that aim app (or a similar one) on my early t-mobile phones, and yeah, it really didn’t make it clear that it used text messages rather than data.

  41. common_sense84 says:

    Dump AIM and get a IM program that uses data, not text. It should be easy on android.

    As for the bill, file a lawsuit against AOL.

  42. DD_838 says:

    Even I knew that. What’s your credit score?? Low scores = bad customer service from T-Mobile.

  43. Joedel263 says:

    I’m on verizon and have had AIM for years (I don’t necessarily recommend the software, it’s just easier to keep track of my minions because they all use it) It has always counted as text messages..

  44. mrstu says:

    This seems odd to me… whenever you install an android app, it warns you what the application will be ‘allowed’ to do… and I just checked, and the official AOL AIM app does NOT have SMS permissions, just ‘internet access’ permissions… it shouldn’t be ABLE to send things as a text message…

  45. Carlee says:

    I thought it was pretty common knowledge (amongst savvy cellphone users, that is) that AIM counts as SMS/text. I found this back when I was with T-Mobile and that was about 4-5 years ago.

    Don’t know if T-Mobile will be willing to refund the $80. What the OP could have done (if she had checked her bill before the closing date) is changed her text plan to an unlimited plan (assuming T-Mobile has one? They did when I was with them). She can then change back to a lower plan the following month. This would not extend her contract (since it’s just an “add on”, not the voice plan that she is trying to change).

  46. mikells43 says:

    you have it set to fwd the messages form ur aim if u shut it off on ur comp. ovbously its not on, on ur device or they would go to ur go to ur device via data. not via text from aim fwding. thats what its doing, ur aim fwding is on. turn it off!!! take ur number out of aims system and it will nto fwd messages to ur cell, they will go over the data to ur phone on the aim APP. is it that hard? oh and its 2010, get unlimited texting already!

  47. golddog says:

    Am I the only one missing the real point here?? People are still using AIM? Did an update somewhere along the way allow you to chat with people in 1997?

    Seriously though, Google Talk or a third party app if you’re that in to “Instant Messaging” and want to avoid the SMS charge. But if you’re that in to “Instant Messaging”, you could also just get a plan that has unlimited SMS built in, since you know, those get to you pretty instantly. On T-Mo unlimited texts are built in to the “all you can eat” $79 plan.

  48. Amnesiac85 says:

    It’s almost 3 AM here (so my memory may be a bit spotty) and my phone is not next to me, but I seem to recall something about SMS popping up when I installed the AIM app. I think there’s an option to utilize IMs on your phone as SMS, instead of as IMs. Don’t quote me on that, I installed the app a few months ago, but I vaguely remember that message popping up.

    I also think it depends on the phone service you have. Take a good look at the TOS regarding the AIM app to make sure you didn’t gloss something over.

  49. Destron says:

    I don’t know if the plans are still the same, but with T-Mobile the android data plan they require you to have with an android phone is $30 a month. Data+Unlimited texting was $35 a month. That’s the plan I am on, but the may have changed it by now, either way, that would have been the way it worked when she got her phone. I dunno what she is paying for her 400 texts a month, but I would have just paid the damn $5 for unlimited texts to.

  50. sp00nix says:

    this happened to me when i got my first phone. And what the little bastard did was it would crash while singing off, but still the messages were forwarded to my phone, but the phone saw none of it. I think that month i racked up 4500 texts on a 200 text plan.

  51. jvanbrecht says:

    Here is the deal with all carrier subsidized phones…

    They modify them heavily and put on their own crapware.

    ATT – The Captivate, the latest and greatest Android phone they currently have (Also known as the Galaxy S by Samsung), has a crapton of preinstalled ATT crap, ATT Radio, ATT TV, bunch of other things, they are all pay for services, none of them are free. Yes, their are market alternatives that are much easier to use and free, but thats not what ATT is trying to do, they are trying to trick people into using revenue generating services.

    Lets look at Verizon (I have not used them in years and years, so this may not be valid anymore). They used to gimp all their phones (research the old Samsung SGH-700 I think was the model, disabled bluetooth except for headset.. like the iphone…), so that you had to use their revenue generating services to get things like photos and videos off the phone, they completely disabled the ability to transfer the data via usb or bluetooth..

    Sprint did the same for a long time.

    Assume anything the carrier has preinstalled on your device, as something that will cost you, its not done by accident, and they try really hard to bury the costs in fine print so people do not notice it…

  52. Weekilter says:

    The AIM app does not use any text message allowance. I’m using it on a deactivated iPhone.

  53. johnrhoward says:

    That’s ridiculous, that should definitely be data. I can understand if it was a dumbphone, it might use texts instead of data, but on andorid, it should definitely be data and there’s no reason T-Mobile should even know how many messages were sent through any app.

  54. simonr27 says:

    I know with Verizon it says somewhere that AOL IM uses text messages to send and recieve messages.

  55. jro2020 says:

    did you know that when you download an android program it tells you all the services it accesses? It even has a separate section from privacy concerns where it warns you what services that may cost you money to use. I am sorry I have no sympathy for your choice to not read warnings provided to you,

  56. Nick says:

    My AIM/Yahoo/MSN application running on my enV Touch when you initially start it for the first time CLEARLY suggests that you subscribe to a text messaging bundle if you intend on using the service since it uses the text messaging services. So, I’m pretty sure that any other phone would have that warning as well.

  57. yulingo says:

    I had this problem way back in the day when I got my first phone and discovered the magic of mobile IM. Turned out it was just magically sucking money out of my parent’s wallet.

    These days, it depends on which phone you’re using, but I know if it’s not a smartphone with a data plan, all those IM messages are charged just like texts. If you can live without geting AIM on your phone, remove the AIM mobile option (you can probably do this at aol.com or via an official AIM app on your computer) ASAP. If they don’t have your number anymore, they can’t text and charge you.

  58. BoredOOMM says:

    Friends Don’t Let Friends Use AIM

  59. Winteridge2 says:

    I bought a verizon prepaid phone that charges me per day used and per call, including text messages. I soon found myself getting 4-5 text messages per day from spammers selling auto warranties and such. I went to the local verizon office and was told the only way to stop it was to block all texting. I did this and was fine until my contract expired, and verizon sent me a text message to warn me. hmmm.

  60. cheezfri says:

    I’m a little confused by this post. Laura’s quote says, “Heather tells Consumerist that has AOL Instant Messenger installed on her smartphone, but doesn’t really use it.” But apparently she DOES use it. Also, how long had Heather been using AIM? She just now figured out she’s being charged for texts? Not to blame the OP, but I’m just confused about some of the wording here and exactly what was going on.

  61. pz says:

    As I recall from my T-Mobile Android phone days, the minute you start up this app for the first time, it TELLS you that it’s going to use text messages in place of AIM messages (it’s just a shitty T-Mobile app, that’s all). Now, if this person is like most (hell, nearly all) users, they just went ahead and clicked “OK” on this warning without even reading it… which explains the situation.