SMS vs. MMS (What’s the Difference)

Topic: Esendex, Uncategorized

Mobile devices have gone from novelty to necessity, as people spend more than three hours daily on their smartphones and other devices. More than 6.8 billion people use smartphones daily, including sending and receiving dozens, if not hundreds, of SMS and MMS messages.

Some of those are even marketing messages from their favorite brands and business. That’s right—SMS and MMS have become standard marketing tools in the business world. And by 2025, smartphones are expected to account for 80% of all connections.

It’s no wonder that businesses are increasingly using SMS and MMS to initiate personalized A2P (app-to-person) and P2P (person-to-person) communications. Read on to find out how these two messaging protocols work, the difference between SMS and MMS, and what they can do for your marketing.

SMS — The Short Message Service

SMS is an acronym for Short Message Service. The messaging service is one of the oldest texting technologies. It dates back to the 1980s, and the first text message via SMS protocol was sent in 1992.

SMS is a special protocol for sending and receiving text messages over cellular network connections. The standard length of a text message sent via SMS is 160 characters. Initially, if a text exceeded that limit, it was automatically split into multiple segments.

Many modern smartphones will convert a message that exceeds 160 to an MMS, or multimedia message, instead. The text can then be clicked on and expanded into a larger paragraph rather than getting multiple texts for each chunk of the message. Most carriers in the U.S. offer unlimited texting plans, making SMS services nearly free to use.

Today, businesses use mass texting services for sending SMS to end-users. According to U.S. carrier regulations, companies must use a short or long code to send SMS messages. Mass texting apps help organizations add security protocols for protecting their customers from malicious practices.

MMS — The Multimedia Messaging Service

Ok, so what’s MMS? Essentially, MMS is an extension of the core SMS protocol. Multimedia Messaging Service aims to allow users to send multimedia content via text message. Therefore, you can also send pictures, audio, videos, and contact cards with text messages.

The standard length of a text message sent via MMS is greater than 160 characters. However, you must have a data package to send and receive a multimedia message. Usually, most carriers can handle data up to 300 KB.

Some carriers reliably handle MMS messages containing up to 500 KB of data, which is enough for a 30-second video file. Therefore, the number of images you can send via an MMS depends on the file size. Similarly, the amount of files sent via MMS depends on the sender’s and recipient’s monthly data package.

SMS vs. MMS — The Difference

Though SMS and MMS have some similarities, they are also different. Below are a few of them.

1. Accessibility

SMS text messaging technology is universal. Every cellular network and mobile device supports SMS. They all have an SMS texting feature from smartphones to other mobile devices. But unlike SMS, not every cell phone is MMS-enabled. When you send an MMS to a phone that can’t accept multimedia content, the message appears as plain text. Therefore, the sender and receiver require a data package for communication via the MMS protocol.

2. Message Length

Another difference between an SMS and MMS is the character limit per text. The character count for an SMS is 160, whereas MMS messages do not have a standard limit. An SMS automatically splits into segments or converts to an MMS when it exceeds the 160-character limit. However, the amount and size of MMS messages you can send depends on the carrier and the recipient’s mobile configuration.

3. Content Limitations

With SMS, you can only send plain texts or links to multimedia content; you cannot add the items within the body of the text. MMS allows you to embed media files like images, videos, audio, and GIFs. However, users can only send or receive interactive media if their cellular device has an MMS facility.

4. Transmission Mechanism

When you send a text message via SMS, it goes to a Short Message Service Center (SMSC). These centers offer a store and forward mechanism. They send the message or queue text messages for resending. Some centers also provide a “forward and forget” feature, which discards the message once sent.

The transmission mechanism of an MMS is similar to sending and receiving SMS at the initial stage. However, the process changes when the message center forwards the MMS to the recipient on another carrier.

The center sends the MMS via the Internet and determines if the recipient’s device is MMS-equipped. If it is, the center sends a URL to the recipient as a text message so that the phone browser can display the content. Once the phone receives the message, it will retrieve the message content and display it dynamically in the message window. The recipient can view the message in a web browser if the phone does not have an MMS viewing facility.

5. SMS Marketing vs. MMS Marketing

Companies typically incorporate SMS and MMS protocols when using text messaging as a branding tool. Both have distinct advantages. For example, SMS does not require additional app downloads. Businesses use SMS texting for various purposes, such as:

  • Marketing promotions, such as announcing an upcoming product launch or sale
  • Reminders or alert notifications
  • Sending individualized messages to customers, such as on birthdays or anniversaries
  • Customer onboarding notifications

MMS marketing is also gaining popularity in the business world. Many businesses use the MMS protocol to distribute promotional videos and branded content. With MMS, businesses send media to supplement their communication and make their marketing campaign more effective. They use multimedia messaging for:

  • Announcing new product launches with product images included
  • Sending short audio or video clips for promotional offers
  • Sending coupon images
  • Inviting for events
  • Marketing campaigns, such as text-to-win

It is important to identify the needs and goals of your organization before choosing between SMS marketing and MMS marketing. However, with the right text messaging API, you also don’t have to choose. APIs like Esendex’s programmable SMS support real-time communication with SMS and MMS-enabled numbers.

No matter what marketing method and API you choose, ensure you send marketing content to the consumer only after receiving consent. Above all, ensure the content of your message does not violate the texting guidelines enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

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Esendex US