SMS vs. MMS: What Are Their Key Differences?

SMS vs. MMS: What Are Their Key Differences?
Table Of Contents

SMS and MMS are sometimes used interchangeably when referring to sending messages over your phone or on a computer. But there are some key differences between these two features that are important to know.

Here’s everything you need to know about SMS and MMS, including the similarities, differences, and how you can use them to your advantage.

What Is SMS? How Do You Use SMS Messaging?

SMS is an acronym that stands for short message service. When you send a text message, you’re very likely sending someone an SMS. These were the first text messages, invented in the 1980s. They are still widely used today as one of the oldest texting technologies worldwide.

With that said, an SMS message differs slightly from a text that you might send to someone in your day to day. This is because an SMS message has a 160-character limit and cannot contain any pictures or videos.

So, if you send someone an SMS message that exceeds the 160-character limit, it gets broken up into multiple smaller texts that get sent at the same time. Most carriers chain these messages together so that they at least get sent in order.

How Is SMS Different from iMessage or WhatsApp?

iMessage on your iPhone, as well as Facebook Messenger, Instagram DM, WeChat, or WhatsApp, are known as OTT or Over the Top applications. This means you don’t need a cellular network to use their features but instead the internet.

To send and receive messages from these applications, both the receiver and the sender need to have the same app downloaded on their device. For instance, two people would need to have iPhones to use the iMessage functionalities outside of traditional texting.

Since these apps don’t adhere to the same limitations of text messaging over a mobile network, they can support a higher volume of characters at one time without needing to be separated into multiple texts.

What Is the MMS Message Type?

MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service. It’s essentially an enhanced version of text messaging, and the main difference is that it can send multimedia content in your messages, as the name implies.

If you send a message that contains a photo, video, GIF, audio file, and more, it means you sent an MMS file. MMS files also allow you to send up to 1600 characters of text in your message — ten times what SMS allows.

MMS Use: Pros and Cons

You often don’t have much of a choice when it comes to which type of file your phone or device will send, but it can still be important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each one.

SMS Advantages

One of the main advantages of SMS messages is that they are short and sweet, meaning that they make for a super quick and convenient form of communication. They don’t take much time to write, and they don’t take much time to read.

Not to mention, since they take up a lot less memory and cellular data than MMS, they are much cheaper to send. Most carriers in the US even offer unlimited texting with SMS messages, so there is likely no extra cost to send as many as you want.

SMS Disadvantages

A major disadvantage of having a device that only supports SMS is that you can only send written text. You cannot send pictures, videos, audio, or even emojis in most traditional SMS messages. This can be difficult if you’re trying to grab the attention of a potential customer.

While the brief nature of these messages is a benefit, it can also be a drawback. This short paragraph you’re currently reading has over 200 characters, which shows that SMS can be really limiting if you have more to say.

MMS Advantages

MMS messages have loads of benefits for businesses, especially since they tend to be a bit more eye-catching. This is because you can add photos and videos, which tend to be more memorable for clients. Plus, it can catch their attention much better than plain text alone.

Additionally, you can send text blasts with much larger amounts of content than an SMS since you have a 1600-character limit here. This means you can have a lot more freedom to say whatever you would like to potential clients to make more of a lasting impression.

MMS Disadvantages

One of the biggest downfalls of MMS messages is that they cost more money to send in the first place. Sending out mass amounts of MMS messages with large data files can cost a business a lot more money, which can be challenging for those who are just starting out.

Additionally, not everyone with a cell phone can receive MMS messages. Those with older phones like flip phones or previous generation iPhone, Samsung, and Windows devices might be limited to the types of files they are able to send and receive. This might make some of your content inaccessible to parts of your audience.

Are MMS Marketing Campaigns Worth the Cost?

Even though using MMS is more expensive than traditional SMS for your marketing campaigns, there are some good reasons why you might want to fork over some extra dough to run them. One of the main reasons is that the return on investment is often super high.

MMS tends to have a higher action rate than SMS, probably because of the visual component that makes a bigger impact. This same study also found that people were eight times more likely to share an MMS message as opposed to plain texts.

Just make sure that your campaign actually makes sense. A picture is only necessary if it’s going to serve a purpose, intriguing customers and making them excited to see new product updates. It’s also great for making special announcements and sending valuable tips to get people to check out your site’s blog.

So what is the cost difference between SMS and MMS? If you have a phone plan that lets you send 1,000 text messages per month, and you have about 250 people on a text list, you’d only use up 250 of those texts during each blast. But if you want to send an MMS, it would take up to 400 to 600 messages, depending on the size of the file you’re sending.

This makes it harder to send multiple MMS messages a month at the same cost. So, you want to be careful about how you send these types of ad campaigns and how often you do so.

When Should You Send SMS Messages?

Since SMS messages have a character limit, you’ll want to use these for shorter alerts or time-sensitive details. Some of the most common use cases include order confirmations, shipping information, appointment reminders, account information, product updates, and loyalty programs.

They’re not necessarily meant to grab someone’s attention – they are usually just used for a customer’s convenience to enhance the customer experience.

When Should You Use MMS Messages?

MMS messages are meant to reel people in. And since they have a higher engagement rate and sharing rates compared to SMS, there are a few specific times when you’d want to use these.

Sending out promo codes or mobile coupons to drive business is a popular reason, as well as sending out product photos of menus through text. Making announcements about new sales or products is another great reason for using MMS, and sending birthday messages with an emoji or a photo can show customers how much you care about them.

MMS messages are essentially about driving new business and retaining customers. SMS messages are used to make the life of a customer more convenient. Both have their place in your business’s ad campaigns.

A2P vs. P2P Messaging

When you send an SMS or an MMS message from your business, it falls into two categories. One is Application to Person (A2P), and the other is Person to Person (P2P).

A2P messaging occurs when a messages app sends a message to a mobile user’s device. It’s a form of one-way communication, and the recipient cannot necessarily respond directly back to the sender. These are for automated messages and alerts, as well as authentication codes, order confirmations, and scheduled promotional messages.

In other words, A2P messages are not sent directly by a human being. P2P messages, on the other hand, come from a real person.

Examples of P2P interaction include 1-on-1 customer support, feedback and correspondence between employees, lead reach out through talk or text, or messages between a delivery driver and a customer.

SMS vs. iMessage

Since Apple’s iOS has a share of nearly 60% of the entire smartphone market across the United States, businesses need to review proprietary messaging systems. iMessage differs slightly from your typical SMS or MMS message because it doesn’t use cell data — it uses the internet.

iMessage functionality works over your Wifi network or over cellular internet data, giving iPhone users the ability to use different functionalities in their messages that Android users or Windows phone users do not have access to. iPhone users can send drawings, play games, and even send animated emojis in real time through the iMessage service.

Your business can use these features to your advantage if you are sending messages between two iPhones to help catch the attention of incoming customers. You can tell when iMessage features are working because the color of the message bubbles will be light blue.

When the iPhone uses text message data, either because the recipient doesn’t have an internet connection or because they are using a different device, the bubble will turn green on the messaging application on your mobile phone.

In Conclusion

SMS and MMS are two ways to share information through a mobile carrier service directly to your consumers. SMS messages are smaller, with a 160-character limit of text-only messaging. On the other hand, MMS messages have a 1600-character limit and can support other file types, like music, videos, audio clips, and pictures.

MMS can be used in advertising campaigns to snag the attention of your audience, while SMS messages can be used to send quick alerts and reminders to your customer base. Regardless, make it easier to safely send and receive messages with a Burner phone number.

From buying and selling online or using this second number as your business line, Burner has a multitude of uses that can help you keep your personal number private. Get your Burner number today.


The First Text Message Celebrates 25 Years | NPR

What is an Over-the-Top Application (OTT)? | Definition from Techopedia

8 ways to fix iMessage if it's not working on your iPhone | Business Insider

How SMS Works | HowStuffWorks

MMS Should Be A Key Component Of Your Communication Strategy | Forbes

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