Popular even today, Short Message Service (SMS) is a text-only messaging system that operates using cellular networks and has revolutionised the way we communicate with different audiences.

SMS messages allow you to get in touch with anyone, wherever they are in the world. As a result, many businesses use SMS to send reminders, conduct surveys, issue mobile coupons, and generally spread the word about their brand far and wide.

Ten years after the first commercial SMS was sent, another form of messaging was introduced, the MMS. It added useful functionality to texting, such as distributing images and videos.

Today, we're going to delve into the main differences between MMS and SMS and help you decide which is best for your business.

The core differences between SMS vs MMS messages

MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service. It is basically an extension of the SMS. It has exponentially improved the capacity of traditional texting, creating a significant impact in the world of mobile marketing. Any business seriously considering the SMS marketing channel should compare these two services before making a choice.

You need to know which one is more suitable for your business, and for that, you need to learn more about these messaging services. Although some use the terms interchangeably, these two messaging services are definitely not the same and don't work in the same capacity. Even their names are self-explanatory.

The following are some fundamental differences between SMS and MMS.

Space and size

SMS messages limit the amount of text you can send. Anything over 160 characters is split into two or more messages or automatically converted into an MMS message. If you have brief marketing content to send, it might be beneficial to use SMS. A lot of businesses use SMS messages throughout the customer journey to draw potential clients in and retain them.

The additional space offered by MMS messages allows more content. The typical character limit of an MMS message is 1600, which is ten times more than SMS. So if you're not utilising all that extra space, then you're probably taking on an unnecessary cost.

Media attachments

Another key difference between SMS vs MMS is that the former doesn't support sending media files or embedding them. Although you can upload your media to a sharing platform and send the link via SMS, the message won't show what that content is.

MMS allows senders to directly embed different media in their messages to make them more appealing. You can attach and send images, audio files, GIFs, and short video clips.

Sending multimedia messages is a great way to enrich the content that your recipients are receiving. For this reason, MMS messages are often more engaging, with users being attracted by lively visual and audible content.

This idea has been used in many mobile marketing strategies to make campaigns more meaningful and effective. You can embed product images, podcasts, or short videos for marketing purposes. Not all businesses need to embed media in their content, though, and you should take some time to decide whether or not you really need MMS messages before making the investment.


Costs also significantly differ due to the way that messaging systems work. Sending multimedia content always takes up more space and resources, so sending MMS messages naturally utilises more credit.

Sending one MMS message can use up to three SMS credits, which are quite costly. For some people, this expense is justifiable due to the increased message size and ability to send creative media to potential customers.

One of the biggest advantages of SMS messages is that they can reach a wider audience for the same price. Sending SMS uses fewer credits, which means you can add more numbers to the list of recipients you have.

Pricing has affected the decisions of many businesses regarding their SMS marketing strategy. The majority of businesses choose to use SMS over MMS because of its significant affordability.

Delivery protocols

The pricing of SMS vs MMS messages is primarily affected by the delivery method used.

SMS messages are transmitted using a traditional process that involves passing through various base stations and different servers. MMS messages are sent using sophisticated communication methods, which is what allows the user to distribute images and media. An MMS message also uses TCP/IP technology to encode and decode the message from the sender to the recipient.

Thus, it is easier for MMS to carry media files embedded in the message and has a significantly higher limit of characters. The factors that set MMS apart are due to this difference in delivery protocol.

That is why MMS will give the recipient an option to download the media carried by the message. TCP/IP messaging works through the internet protocol, so in essence, the sender uploads the content, and the recipient downloads it when receiving it.

Difference between SMS vs MMS use in marketing

The use of texts in marketing has been widespread because of their open rates. According to recent research by Gartner, SMS open rates are 98% and response rates 45%, both much higher than email. There are plenty more advantages of text marketing, but again, there is the question of what to choose, SMS or MMS.

We've discussed the more technical differences between SMS and MMS, but for a business such as yours, it is also essential to compare these messaging systems from a marketing perspective.

Device compatibility

If you would like your text message to reach the widest possible audience, you need to choose a format that every target customer will be able to receive and read.

MMS is not compatible with all mobile devices that the target audience might be using, such as simple feature phones with numeric keypads. It is far more suitable for smartphones and other digital devices like tablets and smartwatches.

Audiences who prefer traditional technology or are inclined to use older phones better receive SMS campaigns. SMS effectively reaches all types of devices because they use cell towers, used by both analogue phones and smartphones.

A digital audience of users with smartphones may react better to MMS. As outlined above, MMS uses a TCP/IP delivery method, so sending MMS messages to a device that doesn't support internet protocols will be ineffective.

The goal is to reach the targeted audience effectively, and sending incompatible text messages won't do you any good. You need to fully understand the audience you are targeting to know which one will be more effective.

SMS vs MMS Summary: Pros and Cons

Pros of SMS messaging

  • Although SMS is one of the oldest texting technologies, that does not mean it will be any less effective in your next marketing campaign.

  • SMS marketing is an affordable alternative to traditional marketing techniques, and many businesses have already taken advantage of its affordability. Sending an SMS message is a cost-effective form of communication, allowing you to send messages directly to the recipient's phone.

  • This short message service also has the benefit of getting straight to the point. SMS only allows for 160 characters in a message, so this helps to ensure concise communication with your customers. Clients are more likely to remember your message if it is kept clear and succinct, and such an approach may also lead to increased client engagement.

  • SMS also has the added advantage of reaching a wider audience. Some target customers might not have access to smartphones, so by sending text-only messages, you can include maximal customers in your marketing campaign.

Pros of MMS messaging

  • MMS messaging allows brands to send multimedia content to a large audience. It enables them to connect with their clients through a wide range of media, including images, videos, and sometimes audio files.

  • The vast majority of businesses that use text marketing implement MMS campaigns, as their use of multimedia is often seen to be more engaging. Customers are more likely to interact with a message containing an image or video, and the message itself is often enhanced by the inclusion of multimedia.

  • Not only do MMS messages make it possible to embed rich media, but their character limit of 1,600 means that more information can be shared. Sometimes it is necessary to explain information in more detail, and MMS messaging allows you to do this without splitting it into pieces.

  • MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service, and this means that MMS can be used to send a wide range of content. Unlike SMS, MMS messages make it possible to share images, videos, and GIFs. Sending a vast range of content is likely to engage a younger target audience, and is also likely to make your business stand out from your competitors.

Cons of SMS messaging

  • Sending SMS messages may seem like the best option for your business due to their affordability and more direct method of communication. However, the tight character limit may not be suitable for some campaigns, especially if it's important to go into detail.

  • SMS messages may be less engaging to customers. The short message service does not allow you to send videos or pictures, meaning that you are limited to sending text-only messages.

  • For this reason, it is harder to be creative when sending SMS messages. As they do not contain multimedia, it can be challenging to write SMS copy that successfully grabs the recipients' attention. Generally, audiences prefer to watch or listen to marketing content, so a plain block of text can often seem impersonal.

Cons of MMS messaging

  • A key difference between SMS vs MMS messaging is the pricing. MMS messages typically cost much more than SMSes, so it is important to consider whether your business can afford MMS marketing.

  • It is also worth questioning whether your target audience can receive MMS messages. Not every mobile device is MMS-enabled, so the content you send may only be viewed by a fraction of your target audience.

  • Another disadvantage of MMS is that it uses more cellular data. MMS messages are much larger in size due to their higher capacity, which means that they use up more data than standard SMS messages. The recipient's device will likely have monthly data limits, so customers may choose to opt out of such messages in order to free up their data.

So, what is the best way to send messages to people?

Ultimately, this depends on your business and the needs of your target audience. Although there are benefits to using both SMS and MMS messages, it is important to consider which type of message will best reflect your brand's mission without pushing your budget.

How do SMS and MMS compare to Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp?

Messaging applications differ from SMS and MMS messaging as they require an internet connection. Texts sent through instant messaging apps often have no character limit and do not rely on cellular data networks to operate.

WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger may seem similar to MMS at first glance, as they can both send images or audio content to the recipient's phone. A key difference is that these messaging apps require registration, while it is not necessary to create an account to send SMS or MMS messages.

It is possible to text customers through instant messaging apps using a PC since they offer corresponding desktop apps. While you can send SMS from a PC, too, and so can MMS, they can only be viewed on a mobile device (unless the recipient's native texting app offers a desktop version).

Instant messaging apps like WhatsApp are also available with unique features, such as reactions and customisations, that can be used to engage the recipient. Native messaging apps are only now starting to offer some of these features.

How do I switch from MMS to SMS?

It is possible to disable MMS messages on any device, although the method of doing so may vary. Most devices will allow you to access the phone settings, where you can disable the MMS messages function quickly and easily.

What happens if I exceed the SMS character limit?

As its name suggests, Short Message Service is restricted in its capability. When the limit is exceeded, the message will often be split into multiple messages, while in some cases, it may be converted to an MMS message. To be on the safe side, you should verify the length of your SMS before you send it.

Do all phones support MMS?

Unfortunately not. Many older cell phones do not have the capability to receive MMS messages at all, which can be an annoying barrier if you're running an MMS marketing campaign. This is why SMS messages are considered to be the best option if you're trying to reach the largest possible audience.

If you know that most of your recipients will be using smartphones and MMS-capable devices, then it's definitely worth considering using multimedia messaging to get the most out of your marketing campaign.

The bottom line

The truth is that there is really no wrong or right system when it comes to choosing how to send your texts. Each protocol has its advantages and drawbacks.

In order to choose the right messaging system for you, take some time to consider how you want to integrate texting into your marketing campaigns and what features you'll need to achieve that. This way, you'll be able to plan your campaigns more effectively and really get the most out of the system that you choose.

Whichever format you go with, they'll be plenty of opportunities to get creative with your marketing efforts. Experiment, have fun and enjoy spreading the word about your brand with effective text marketing campaigns.