SMS vs. MMS: What’s the Difference, and Which One Should You Use?

When it comes to mobile messaging, SMS and MMS are both popular and widely deliverable. However, they have distinct features that make them different and suitable for various use cases – for example, do you need to share multimedia content or not? In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between SMS vs MMS and help you choose the one that fits your needs best.

Before we discuss the differences, it’s worth noting that neither one is inherently better than the other. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages – understanding them can help you choose the best one for your needs.

One thing you should consider though, is a good customer engagement platform that supports both SMS and MMS, along with other messaging channels such as voice, push, wallet, and WhatsApp. If you need help deciding which messaging type is best for your business, you can request for professional assistance.

man looking down at smartphone used to send sms and mms messages

What is SMS?

SMS stands for Short Message Service and is used for sending short text messages between mobile devices, and is the most basic form of mobile messaging, widely used around the world. Sending a SMS message is straight-forward. You need a mobile device that supports SMS, a phone number to send the message to, and a cellular network connection. Most mobile plans include SMS messaging as part of their service, and it’s also possible to send SMS messages over the internet using specialized services.

One of the main limitations of SMS vs MMS, though, is its character limit. SMS messages are limited to 160 characters, including spaces and punctuation. This was originally due to technical limitations of the cellular networks, but even as those limitations have improved, the character limit has remained in place. As a result, SMS is best suited for short and simple messages – though, you can send long messages as multiple messages, but this will increase costs.

Despite these limitations, however, SMS remains very popular and has many applications.

What is MMS?

Multimedia Messaging Service, or MMS, allows for mobile messages that include multimedia content such as images, audio, and video in addition to text. MMS messages can be much larger than SMS messages, containing up to 1,600 characters, though this is network and device dependent.

In addition to a compatible device and network, a data connection is also required as, being larger than SMS messages, MMS messages require more data to send. However, most modern smartphones and networks support MMS, making it a viable option for multimedia messaging.

MMS messages are also subject to file size limitations, which can vary depending on the device and network. As a result, if the file size of an MMS message exceeds the limit, it may be automatically compressed or rejected.

SMS vs MMS: 4 Key Differences

1. Character limits

As mentioned earlier, SMS messages are limited to 160 characters, while MMS messages can contain up to 1,600 characters (or more, depending on the device and network). This makes MMS a better option for longer messages that include multimedia content, like images, gifs or videos.

2. How Messages are Sent

SMS messages can be sent using a cellular network connection, while MMS messages require both a cellular network connection and a data connection. As a result, MMS messages may not be accessible on all devices or networks.

3. Supported Content

MMS messages can contain multimedia content such as images, audio, and video, while SMS messages are limited to text only. This makes MMS a better option if your message has more visual content.

4. Pricing

MMS messages are typically more expensive to send than SMS messages.

Should I Use SMS or MMS?

When it comes to choosing between SMS vs MMS, you may be unsure which option best fits your communication and marketing strategy. Illustrating broad strategies and use cases may provide more insight and help you choose the most appropriate technology. You should consider factors such as message content, audience, and budget.

Advantages of SMS

SMS is a great option for businesses that want to send quick and straightforward messages, such as appointment reminders, delivery notifications, or security alerts. SMS is cost-effective and has a wider reach than MMS, as it can be received on any mobile device.

Advantages of MMS

On the other hand, MMS allows you to send multimedia content such as images, videos, and audio. MMS messages can be up to 5 MB in size, which gives businesses more space to play with and create engaging content. MMS is an ideal option for businesses that want to send promotional messages, marketing offers, or customer support that needs to be more engaging than a text-only message. However, costs will be higher and reach may be affected by device and network compatibility.

SMS Use Cases

  • Transactional texts – great for order confirmations, delivery notifications, appointment reminders, or account updates.
  • Purchase auto-replies – ideal for automatic replies to customers who have made a purchase, such as a thank-you message or an order status update.
  • Security alerts – excellent for one-time passwords or two-factor authentication codes to verify user identity.

MMS Use Cases

  • Promotional messages – excellent for promotional messages to customers with eye-catching multimedia content, such as images or videos, to grab their attention and increase engagement.
  • Marketing offers – great for marketing offers or discounts with multimedia content to encourage customers to take action.
  • Customer support – ideal for multimedia content to explain complex issues or to provide visual instructions to customers.

Get the Most out of Both SMS and MMS with Syniverse’s Customer Engagement Platform

At Syniverse, we understand the importance of effective business communication. That’s why we offer a customer engagement platform that supports both SMS and MMS messaging, as well as voice, push, wallet, and WhatsApp. With our platform, you can easily create and send engaging and effective messages to their customers, no matter their location or device.

When it comes to SMS vs MMS, both have their unique advantages, and by using Syniverse’s Customer Engagement Platform, which is tailored for delivering omnichannel comms experiences, your business can get the most out of both SMS and MMS messaging, and most other channels too, based on emerging needs, and more effectively connect with customers. 

Why not learn more and discuss how Syniverse can help transform your businesses’ mobile messaging game? Speak to our team today!



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