MMS Vs. SMS Text Messages

SMS is one of the oldest and most regularly used forms of communicating on mobile devices. MMS has expanded the possibilities of mobile messaging by permitting multimedia transmissions. MMS users can send pictures and text as long as their recipients have devices that allow it.

Businesswoman standing in tiled walkway, using mobile phone
A businesswoman is standing in a hallway sending a text.
credit: Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images

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Understand Basics

SMS is an abbreviation for Short Messaging Service, which is the way to send brief text-only messages over wireless networks. SMS is advantageous because is based on the big three network technologies: Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA). This means SMS is a universal service. SMS limits text messages to 160 characters. SMS messages travel to a message center, which holds the message and allows several attempts to deliver the message if the first attempt is unsuccessful.

Include Multimedia

Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) expands on SMS by allowing users to send and receive text messages that include video, images, and audio. There is no specific limit on MMS size -- it varies based on the carrier and device. MMS messages can also be sent from a mobile phone to an email address. Like SMS, MMS messages are sent to a message center, and then sent to the recipient through the internet as long as the recipient's phone supports MMS.

Compare Options

MMS is superior to SMS because there is no character limit, while SMS is limited to 160 characters. Additionally, MMS messages can include media, while SMS messages can only be text. MMS messages can be sent from mobile devices to other mobile devices or email addresses, while SMS messages can be sent only to phones. One disadvantage to MMS messaging is that it can be costly, depending on the mobile carrier. MMS messages can also take longer to send than SMS messages because they are often greater in size due to the media included.

Other Considerations

If your mobile carrier subscription includes a monthly SMS or MMS message allowance, each SMS or MMS message sent and received will be deducted with no additional charge. If you exceed this allowance, excess messages sent and received will cost extra. If your device's memory is full, you may not be able to send or receive either kind of message. You should receive a warning message on your phone that the memory is almost full or is already full. Delete old messages so you can receive new incoming messages.

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