The SMS message has been developed in the 1980s and it is one of the oldest messaging technologies. In fact, the first text message ever transmitted was an SMS message in 1992. MMS is an extension, enhancement, and advancement of basic SMS technology.
What is SMS Messaging and What does SMS Stand for?
The abbreviation SMS stands for Short Message Service. An SMS is basically a regular text message. It is rather short – limited to 160 characters and it allows the user to only send text and emojis, without adding any photo or video content. An SMS message can include links and up to 918 characters, however, long messages may be split into multiple ones.
SMS messaging is a special communications protocol designed to exchange text messages over cellular networks. It is supported by most telephone, internet, and mobile-ready systems. It is an inexpensive and widely used form of communication – an estimated 6 billion SMS messages are sent every single day. Recently, it has also become a convenient marketing tool.
What is MMS Messaging and What does MMS Stand for?
The abbreviation stands for Multimedia Messaging Service and it allows users to send multimedia content, including pictures, videos, audio clips, GIFs, and more through cellular networks. In fact, the protocol was developed to enable the transmission of multimedia content and it is its main purpose. Note that the text and visual component may be sent separately. In comparison to the short SMS messages, MMS messages allow you to send up to 1600 characters, which is a whole lot more. Most MMS messages can contain up to 500 KB of data, which is enough for 30-second audio or video files or several photos, depending on their size.
MMS messaging is a newer, more advanced communications protocol, designed to transfer multimedia content. It was introduced around 2002. As such, it is supported by fewer devices than SMS messaging. While smartphones and most advanced mobile devices can easily send and receive MMS messages, regular flip phones may not be able to do so. As they use much more data, MMS messages are also much more expensive than SMS messages. In fact, files sent through the MMS technology count against both the sender’s and recipient’s monthly data limits. As over 60% of users are more likely to buy a product or service online after watching a video, MMS messaging has also become one of the most effective marketing methods.
The Core Difference Between MMS and SMS
The core difference between MMS and SMS messages lies in the fact that MMS is an extension of the older and simpler SMS protocol and as such it offers more benefits. The biggest and most well-known distinction is in the content and the length of SMS messages and MMS messages. MMS messages can be much longer and allow the user to send and receive multimedia content, while SMS messages are short and limited to text. Check out the whole list of the main differences between MMS and SMS messages below.
Costs and pricing differences between MMS vs SMS
One of the main differences between SMS and MMS messages is cost and pricing. MMS messages are more expensive than SMS messages and it is only natural, as MMS messages transmit much more data across carrier networks. Of course, the exact pricing of each service depends largely on your carrier and plan. Generally, MMS messages tend to cost 3 times more than SMS messages. While MMS messages are more costly, they are also much more engaging and efficient, especially when it comes to business use.
Use cases differences between SMS vs. MMS
You can send SMS and MMS messages for your personal or professional use. And while the former depends fully on your needs and preferences, business use is a slightly more important consideration. And it turns out that while SMS messages are considerably cheaper, MMS messages are much more effective.
When to use SMS messages:
The general recommendation is to use SMS messages when your goal is to deliver a short and sweet note that doesn’t require anything else than letters and numbers and perhaps a link and emoji or two. SMS messages are great for communicating essential information, such as order confirmations and time-sensitive alerts that do not require any media to make the offer more appealing. Short text messages are suitable for notifying clients about your upcoming text-to-join campaigns, especially if you are expecting a large number of participants and wish to keep your costs down.
They are also the perfect option for one on one conversations, transactional texts, including order confirmations, delivery tracking, general updates, appointment reminders and updates, password resets, two-factor authentication (2FA), customer service, and internal operations management. The difficult part is to get people to sign up to receive your messages. Once they do so, using SMS messages to keep your clients up to date is simply cheaper.
For marketing purposes, on the other hand, it is best to use MMS messages, unless you are on a very tight budget.
When to use MMS messages:
Generally, MMS messages are priceless when you are trying to get someone’s attention, simply because they have a bit more pop than SMS messages. As such, when it comes to marketing and promotions, generating new sales, and improving engagement with coupons and special offers, it is best to use MMS messages. Promotional messages always benefit from including photos, videos, or GIFs. Why? Well, studies have shown that using visual communication is 43% more successful in persuading customers than relying solely on words.
In addition, MMS messages have a 52% higher click-through rate (CTR) than SMS messages. The best time to use MMS messages is when you wish to present a product or service, ask people to sign up for your messages, run a promotion, offer a mobile coupon, reduce the number of abandoned carts, invite subscribers and clients to an event, deliver a birthday or anniversary message, or run a competition.
Character and data limits differences between SMS vs MMS
Character and data limits are some of the most important differences between SMS and MMS messages. A single SMS allows you to include up to 160 characters and use up to 1120 bits of data, while a single MMS message allows you to send up to 1600 characters and use up to 500 KB of data. As you can see, the difference is considerable. Sure, you can send an SMS containing 320 characters, but keep in mind that it counts as two messages, even though they are stitched together.
Picture messaging and rich media differences between SMS vs MMS
As we have mentioned before, the content options may be the most considerable difference between SMS and MMS messages as well as the biggest advantage of MMS messages, as they are the ones able to share rich media. While SMS messages only allow users to send plain text, links, and emojis, MMS messages allow us to add pictures, GIFs, audio files, and even short video clips. Multimedia content is the thing that makes the message more engaging, regardless if you are sending messages for personal or business use.
Protocol differences between MMS and SMS
SMS was the first communications protocol for text messaging. MMS is an extended, newer, advanced protocol that offers more benefits. In terms of technology, there is a difference in the transmission mechanism of SMS and MMS messages. An SMS message will go to a Short Message Service Center (SMSC) or cell towers, which provides a store and forward mechanism. There your message gets sent or queued for resending. Some SMSC centers provide a ‘forward and forget’ option, which discards the sent message. MMS transmission mechanism is similar at the initial stage, but it changes when the message center forwards the content to the recipient that uses another carrier. The center sends the MMS message through the internet protocol and determines in advance whether or not the recipient’s phone is MMS-supported.
In both cases, the center sends an URL containing the content. If the device is MMS-equipped, it will automatically display the content on the phone, otherwise, it will only display an URL link, which will allow the recipient to view the content in a web browser. MMS messaging uses TCP/IP technology to encode and decode the message from the sender to the recipient.
Compatibility and accessibility differences between MMS and SMS
As we have mentioned before, SMS messaging technology is universal and SMS messages are supported on virtually all mobile devices, including analog cell phones. MMS messages, on the other hand, have lower availability and compatibility – in other words, fewer mobile devices are MMS-enabled. Almost all modern cell phones are designed to accept MMS messages, including smartphones and other digital devices, but even older Android phones will require you to adjust your setting to receive MMS messages.
If you are sending messages for business purposes and you wish to reach a wider audience, it may be best to send a good old SMS message, which is supported on all devices. As different devices have different compatibility, it is important to know your audience. If you are targeting young modern folks, you can easily opt for MMS messages. However, if you are targeting older people who are more likely to be using old technology, it is better to send an SMS.
Pros and cons differences between SMS vs MMS
To sum it all up, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of the two communication methods. This will help you understand, which system may fit your needs better.
- The messages are short and sweet. The character limit makes sure you won’t spend a lot of time composing the message.
- SMS messages are more affordable.
- Most US carrier plans offer unlimited texting, therefore you will probably have no additional costs at all.
- It’s impossible to send any kind of multimedia content, therefore the message is plain and lacks something that can grab attention.
- You are limited to 160 characters and 1120 bits of data.
- MMS messages tend to be more attention-grabbing.
- MMS messages are more effective in marketing.
- MMS messages allow you to transmit photos, GIFs, audio, and video files and enable the user to send up to 1600 characters and 500 KB of data.
- MMS messages are more costly.
- Not all mobile devices are MMS-enabled.
- If you are planning to use MMS technology for business purposes, you may need to hire a designer to create the attention-grabbing pictures and videos you wish to send your clients.
MMS vs SMS: Similarities
So far, we have mostly discussed the differences between SMS and MMS messages. However, there are also some similarities between the two communication systems.
- Technology: MMS is simply an extension of the SMS technology and it was originally created for SMS users, therefore both communication systems use the same basic technology. In addition, both kinds of messages are transmitted through the cellular network.
- Use requirements: While some older cell phones don’t accept MMS messages, most of them do. And all the devices that are MMS-enabled can also receive SMS messages. To receive both types of messages, customers need to have an MMS-supported device and a wireless plan.
- Availability: As most cell phone users have a smartphone and a wireless plan, both SMS and MMS messages are widely available to customers. Clients are likely to be able to receive and view both message formats.
SMS vs. MMS: Which is Right for Your Business?
Both SMS and MMS messaging are the new trends in business and highly effective marketing tools. In fact, studies have shown that 89% of clients prefer to communicate with companies and businesses through text messages, rather than phone calls. Texting has been shown to convert at a higher rate compared to other communication channels and methods, and it increases customer satisfaction.
Due to the considerably lower prices (SMS messages usually cost only a third of the price of MMS messages), most businesses use SMS marketing. Studies have shown that when it comes to using SMS and MMS messages for professional marketing purposes, MMS campaigns have a 20% higher opt-in rate and thus efficiency than SMS campaigns. In addition, MMS messages are 8 to 10 times more likely to be shared on social media, as pictures, videos, and GIFs are simply much more engaging than simple text. Sure, MMS messages will cost you more, but as they are much more efficient they are surely worth the higher price.
All in all, both SMS and MMS messages have an appropriate time and place in business communication, and as such both are right for your business. However, the key is knowing when to use one method and when the other. You can read more about the most effective usage in chapter 3 (Use cases differences between SMS vs. MMS).
SMS vs. MMS: Which is Right for You Personally?
When it comes to personal communication, the choice between SMS and MMS messages depends on your personal needs and preferences. MMS messages have recently hit their stride with the introduction of stickers, emojis, memes, and GIFs. Most people send more SMS messages and rely on MMS technology only when they wish to send a photo, video, audio, or another flashy multimedia content. The number of MMS messages an average person sends depends mostly on the cost.
What is iMessage?
iMessage is an instant messaging service developed by Apple. It is supported by iOS devices. Unlike SMS, it needs either cellular data or a Wi-Fi connection to send and receive messages. It supports text, emojis, stickers, memes, GIFs, and all kinds of multimedia content.
How is SMS Different from iMessage or WhatsApp?
While both iMessage and WhatsApp are messaging apps that can send and receive multimedia content, including audios, memes, GIFs, photos, and videos, SMS messages only support text and emojis. These kinds of messaging apps offer many other options that SMS messages don’t. The main difference between those iMessage or WhatsApp and SMS, however, lies in the fact that both iMessage and WhatsApp require cellular data or internet connection to use.
How to Use SMS and MMS to Encourage Customer Engagement?
Research has shown that, on average, people tend to check their phones every few minutes. As we are constantly connected to our phones, it allows businesses to engage with customers. SMS and MMS are two very different messaging systems that offer a large variety of options on how to interact with customers. Exactly how companies can interact with customers depends largely on the types of campaigns they offer and send. Some of the most popular and effective SMS campaigns include marketing promotions, customer onboarding notifications, account and subscription notifications, two-factor authentication login, and appointment reminders.
Great examples of MMS campaigns are new product launches, sales announcements, coupons, promotions, and event invitations. Read more about when to use SMS and MMS messages in chapter 3 (Use cases differences between SMS vs. MMS).