More and more people are picking up on the fact that SMS text messaging is a scam — VentureBeat writer MG Siegler complained about the text message rip-off in the iPhone 3G pricing plan last June, and even The New York Times has looked at accusations of carrier price-fixing. There have been some applications offering workarounds on the iPhone — such as SMS for Free, which lets you send, and only send, a text message from your email account — but they’re not very satisfying. Now a developer called Innerfence has released the Infinite SMS app, and it offers a reasonable if imperfect solution.

Basically, Infinite SMS plugs into Google Talk to send messages (something which that instant messaging service now allows). Once you’ve activated the app and logged into your Gmail account, it works almost exactly like normal text messaging on your end, and it looks like a standard iPhone SMS exchange, too. The message recipient, on the other hand, gets a text with your Gmail address explaining what’s going on, then they can respond as normal. (The text comes from a 406 area code number.)

From that description alone, you can probably guess what some of the major drawbacks are. For one thing, you have to give your Gmail address and password to a third-party application, which I was instinctively less-than-thrilled about. The results are wonky if you’re also logged into Google Talk on your computer; in my case the responses my friend sent were apparently swallowed by the Internet — if you’re the kind of person who’s always logged in to Google Talk, Innerfence recommends creating a special account just for text messaging. The biggest drawback is the fact that the app isn’t allowed to run in the iPhone’s background (a problem for a lot of apps that Apple will hopefully fix soon), so it has to be on for you to see your messages, which eliminates one of the big advantages of text messaging.

Ultimately, Infinite SMS lacks the convenience of normal SMS, but when I compare a one-time 99 cent fee (the cost of the app) to paying much more money month after month, it becomes awfully tempting. At least until everyone has a smartphone and uses email or instant messaging instead of text messages.

Infinite SMS maker Innerfence is a bootstrapped startup based in Seattle. Its other products include an app for turning your iPhone into a credit card terminal.

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