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4 min read

SMS & MMS Text Messaging: Do you Know the Difference?

outbound mms

It's no surprise that the trend toward texting is exploding and is continuing to be an increasingly powerful tool for companies to connect with their contacts instantly. Researchers anticipate that business text messaging and mobile usage is a force that's here to stay and not just a trend that will pass by. In fact, the next generation of text messaging is already upon us; it's called MMS messaging. But what's the difference?

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What is SMS messaging?

SMS is an acronym for "Short Message Service" and is the oldest, most widespread, and frequently used texting technology supported by every mobile network and device today. In the U.S. alone, over 6 billion SMS messages are sent daily. These messages are limited to 160 alphanumeric characters per message (That's just a fancy word for both letters and numbers).

What is MMS messaging?

MMS is an acronym for "Multimedia Message Service" and is most popularly used to send multimedia content such as videos, pictures, GIFs, and audio files. In the U.S. alone, annual traffic has increased from 57 billion to 96 billion messages. Unlike SMS, these messages do not have a standard length.

Text-Em-All customers can send a .PNG or .JPG/.JPEG file up to 5 MB. This new feature is available in both "Create Broadcast" and "Conversations" for both our Pay-As-You-Go and Monthly customers. Common use cases include:

  • Upcoming Event Posters
  • Food Menus
  • Maps w/ Directions
  • Company Logos
  • Event Recap Pictures
  • Screenshots of PDFs

*We DO NOT allow sales, marketing, political,or promotional material. Explicit imagery is NEVER tolerated (nudity, partial nudity, cursing, etc.). Responsible Use Policy

SMS vs. MMS: Which is right for you?

When deciding between MMS vs SMS, pinpoint your messaging goals and objectives. Are you interested in sending text-only or visual messages? Do your contacts engage and respond better with simple text messages or colorful imagery? Does the character count limit your content and communication goals? These are all things to consider when choosing between these two messages.

What about pricing?

MMS is much more engaging to contacts than a plain text message in the right use case. You might be wondering, "Does it cost more"? Simply put, yes - it involves the transmission of more data, and mobile carriers typically charge 6X or more per message than they do for an SMS message.


  • All outbound SMS messages are 1 credit per text segment (160 characters) per phone number.
  • Text segments that include an image (MMS) will be charged one additional credit per recipient. For example, if your text broadcast includes two segments and includes an image (MMS), you will be charged 3 credits per phone number. 
  • Inbound messages are always free!


  • All outbound SMS messages are included with your monthly plan.
  • Due to the high cost of sending MMS messages, they are not included in the monthly plan. To send a message, you will need to accept add-on charges. Sending an image costs a flat 5 cents per recipient of the message.
  • Sending an image in a one-to-one conversation is free. 
  • Inbound messages are always free!



When to use SMS vs MMS

Just like consumers, businesses have the option to communicate with people via SMS and MMS messaging. But both are used for very different reasons, and if you get one mixed up with the other, you could be jeopardizing your text messaging campaign and have a bunch of confused customers on your hands. Messages may be similar, but they're not interchangeable. 

The difference between SMS and MMS

Primarily, SMS and MMS differ from each other in a few main ways. On the one hand, SMS messaging only supports text and links, while MMS messaging supports rich media such as images, GIFs, and video. Another difference is that SMS messaging limits texts to just 160 characters, while image messaging can include up to 500 KB of data (1,600 words) and up to 30 seconds of audio or video. 

Generally, SMS messaging is cheaper to send than the equivalent MMS message, though the final cost does depend on your messaging provider. 

Which is better?

While both messages allow you to reach your customers at any time, whether you're providing customer service or reaching out with the details on your newest promotion, there are very different uses for each of the protocols. That means which one you go with depends on the objectives of your campaign and what you're trying to send.

For example, if you have a smaller budget, you'll want to stick with SMS messaging. They're cheaper to send, meaning that it scales better than MMS messaging so that you can save more on those delivery costs. Informational messages are also better sent via SMS because the text should be all you need, though if you have a promotional offer, it may be better to consider an MMS message. These image messages are also better for lengthy messages as you won't be able to send more than 160 characters in an SMS.

When to use SMS messaging?

If you have an urgent need to send a sentence or two of information, you'll probably do better with an SMS. SMS messages have a 98 percent open rate, and any cell phone can receive an SMS. Things such as appointment confirmations, reminders, and adjustments are also ideal candidates for SMS messaging, as are system alerts and delivery tracking.

Basically, if you're dealing with an existing customer and you just need to provide a quick bit of information, an SMS is your best bet.

When to use MMS messaging?

Since you are allowed to enhance your messages with rich media and other elements, you'll have more opportunities to impress with MMS. Whether it's with flashy graphics, a branded logo, or even intricate artwork, it goes a lot farther than SMS. Not only do you have the ability to embed links and other rich media such as videos and GIFs, but you can even customize the look of the message with certain colors and accents that you could never do with the lowly SMS protocol. 

Everything from animated thank-you cards and holiday messages to sharing business card information is all possible with MMS. Better yet, you can make your coupons scannable directly from a customer's device by including a QR code right in the message itself so that there's nothing to print out or bring when they want to redeem the offer. And if you want to share a helpful instructional video or an audio clip, it can do that, too.

Are iMessage and WhatsApp SMS messages?

Messages sent through applications such as Whatsapp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger are not SMS messages because the messages use the internet or cellular data to send instead of cellular service. These services are defined as OTT (Over The Top) services because they are delivered "over the top" of existing internet services.

Apple's iPhone-to-iPhone messages, also known as iMessages, are also an OTT service, but with a caveat. Unlike other platforms that cannot deliver your message without the Wi-Fi or cellular data, Apple's Messages App will send your message as an SMS if the iMessage fails. Apple users can tell if their message has been sent as an SMS because their text bubble will change from blue to green. 

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