What’s the Difference Between SMS vs MMS?

What’s the Difference Between SMS vs MMS?

Updated December 5, 2021

Even though you probably send text messages daily, you might not be able to answer the question “What is SMS?” And you might be doubly confused when it comes to understanding the difference between SMS vs. MMS. These two terms are used interchangeably but actually refer to different types of messaging. SMS and MMS are two ways to send what we commonly refer to under the umbrella term as text messages. The most simple way to understand the difference is that SMS refers to text messages, while MMS refers to messages with a picture or video. We’ll get more specific about the differences below.

Understanding the breakdown of SMS vs MMS will give you more insight into how to best connect with your customers and which mass text messaging service is best for your business.

What is SMS?

Let’s start with the definition of SMS. What is the difference between a text message and an SMS message? There isn’t a difference between. Is SMS a text message? Yes. SMS is an abbreviation for Short Message Service, which is a fancy name for a text message.

However, while you might refer to a variety of different message types as simply a “text” in your daily life, the difference is that an SMS message contains only text (no pictures or videos) and is limited to 160 characters. For example, technically iMessages aren’t text messages even though most people usually refer to them as such. The SMS was developed in the 1980s and is one of the oldest texting technologies. It’s also the most widely used, despite a growing number of alternative ways to communicate.

Frequently asked questions about SMS

Now that you know the definition of SMS, here are some common questions that people typically ask.

  • What happens if an SMS exceeds the 160 character limit? The SMS message will be broken up into several messages, depending on its length. In 2020, most carriers chain these messages so that they arrive in order.
  • How popular is SMS? In the United States, there are over 6 billion SMS messages sent daily.
  • How is SMS different from iMessage or WhatsApp? Messaging applications like iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat are known as “Over The Top” (OTT) applications. You don’t need a cellular network to send these because they rely on the internet. In order to send these messages, the recipient has to have the same app downloaded on their phone. For example, all iPhones have iMessage installed and your message will default to an iMessage if your recipient is using an iPhone. If they aren’t, your iPhone will default to SMS, which appears as a green bubble on your iPhone as opposed to a blue bubble.
  • Will SMS ever be replaced? Experts predict that RCS messaging will one day replace SMS messaging as the new go-to protocol.

What is MMS?

MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service. You can think of it as an enhancement to the standard SMS message. You’ve probably guessed it by now, but the main difference between SMS and MMS is that you can send, multimedia in your messages. This includes media such as videos, pictures, audio clips and GIFs and more. Additionally, MMS allows for up to 1600 characters of text in your message which is a lot more than a standard SMS.

MMS vs SMS: A side by side comparison

By now you’re probably already starting to understand what SMS is, especially because you probably send multiple SMS messages daily! However, it might be easier to see what SMS is visually. Here’s the difference between SMS vs MMS side-by-side. Two pieces of similar content can look different when using SMS vs MMS messaging as a strategy. Also, even though the below image is based on an iPhone screen, when comparing SMS vs MMS, Android, iPhone and other smart phones follow the same pattern.




Pros and Cons of SMS vs MMS

While both SMS and MMS are excellent ways to engage your customers, there are advantages and disadvantages to each method of communication. In some cases, one may be better or more effective than another depending on the use case or your intended result.

Advantages to SMS

  • SMS messages are short and sweet. Because of the 160 character limit, they don’t require a lot of time or energy.
  • Cheaper to send.
  • Most carriers in the U.S. offer plans with unlimited texting, so there is likely no cost to your subscribers.

Disadvantages to SMS

  • You can’t send videos, photos, or sometimes even emojis in a traditional SMS message. If you want to offer your customers something that is more attention grabbing, MMS may be the way to go.
  • SMS has a character limit of 160 characters which can be limiting if your use case requires you to send a lot of details.

Advantages to MMS

  • MMS messages are typically more eye-catching as people tend to gravitate towards messages in their inbox that include a picture or video.
  • If you need to send text blasts with large amounts of content in each message you can do that by using MMS as, again, the character limit is 1600.

Disadvantages to MMS

  • MMS messages cost more to send. If you’re like most businesses who are budget conscious, you may want to limit how often you are sending MMS messages.
  • Not all people can receive MMS messages. While most people have smartphones these days, not all do and some may not have MMS enabled on their cellular plan.
  • You may not be a designer which means you’ll need to hire someone to put together the graphics or videos that you would send which will inevitably cost you as well.

Cost differences between MMS vs SMS

MMS messages will always cost more no matter what SMS marketing service you’re using. This is because it requires the carriers to send a lot more data than a standard SMS message. While pricing can vary from service to service, MMS marketing with SlickText will use two to three times the number of text messages that a single text would use. This will vary depending on the plan that you have with us.

For example, if you are on a plan that gives you 1,000 text messages per month and you have 200 people on your text messaging list, an SMS message to your entire list would use 200 of that 1,000 messages.

If you were to send an MMS message to that same list, it would use 400 to 600 messages, again, depending on the plan that you have with us.

You might ask yourself, “Is MMS really worth the additional cost”? Consider this…

MMS marketing campaigns, on average, boast 15% to 20% higher engagement levels than traditional SMS messages.Click To Tweet They are also almost 10 times more likely to be shared with friends or through other social media channels. At the end of the day, it still comes back to your use case and what makes sense on a case by case basis. One other thing that will affect your cost of both SMS and MMS is whether or not you’re sending your messages from a short code or standard 10-digit number. An SMS short code is a short phone number that is used for sending mass text messages. Short codes are the go to option when looking to send volumes of texts typically greater than 5oo in a single blast. Because they are built to handle high volumes, the cost for messaging is naturally higher. With that said, currently, most SMS marketing software services use short codes by default.

Should I use SMS or MMS?

Choosing between SMS and MMS requires you to understand what your end users are more likely to engage with and what your use case is. Do you need to communicate a quick message and have people follow a link? If so, SMS may be the right choice. If you’re looking to really grab their attention, can afford the additional cost, and need to show them something visually, MMS is the way to go.

Ultimately, what’s most important is measuring your results and making adjustments to fine-tune your strategy and get the best ROI possible. Most SlickText users will send a mix of SMS and MMS message to balance their costs and engagement.

SlickText is a trusted leader in the SMS marketing and MMS marketing space and service over 40,000 brands in North America. Whether you’re looking to use SMS or MMS for marketing or simple mass text message communications, we have a service that is easy to use, affordable and one that we’d love to teach you more about.

If you’re exploring different messaging solutions and want to speak to a real person about your options, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to connect.