Texting and calling are two of the main channels used for personal and business communication. But which one is better for convenience and effectiveness?

The answer isn't black or white, as several factors come into play, such as who you're trying to contact and why, whether your message is urgent, how much time you and the recipient have – and your budget.

Read on for an impartial view on the pros and cons of texting vs calling, and in which situations it's best to use one channel over another.

Texting vs calling – which is better?

When deciding whether to make phone calls or send text messages, consider the following:

  • Communication purpose – what's the reason behind the communication? Is it likely to involve some complex or time-consuming responses? Could the conversation be one-way, i.e., you informing the recipient about something without needing a reply?

  • Context – what's the recipient likely to be doing when you want to contact them? They might be unable to take a phone call if they're at work. How quickly do you need a response?

  • Target audience – who are you contacting? The channel you use to contact friends might not be appropriate for customers – plus, younger generations communicate differently from older generations. Check what your audience is comfortable with.

  • Recipient preference – people are spoilt for choice nowadays with how they can communicate, but they may prefer one channel over another. One study shows that 63% of U.S. customers prefer texting with businesses rather than voice communication. If you can, find out what your target audience likes.

  • Budget – this might not be an issue when contacting friends and family, as phone calls and texts are often bundled into monthly pricing plans. However, for business communications, phone calls and texts cost money. Not just directly, but also indirectly – for example, you might need to hire call centre staff to contact customers over the phone.

When text messages work best

Text messaging is ideal when you don't have time (or the need for) a chat over the phone. Text messages are quick and unintrusive – the recipient doesn't have to stop what they're doing that instant; they can receive messages and check them when they have a few minutes to spare.

Texting is best when you don't necessarily need a response. It's good for general announcements or appointment reminders, e.g. the date and time of a customer's dental checkup. (Specifics like these can be hard for customers to remember if mentioned on a phone call, whereas a text stays in the message inbox so the customer can refer to it again later on.)

If your texts do warrant a response, it's worth knowing that 95% of people reply within three minutes. So SMS can be helpful in engaging customers through the form of polls and surveys and also for customer service conversations.

Another significant advantage of texting is that you can reach a large number of people at the same time, as you might need to when communicating a flash sale to your entire customer base. You'll need to use a mass texting service for this sort of activity, as the SMS app on cell phones usually has a cap on the maximum number of people you can message simultaneously.

Other situations where texting is best include:

  • When connecting with younger generations – millennials, for instance, are heavy users of digital technologies and, as such, prefer texting.

  • When your message should remain accessible – for travel arrangements, important dates and other information the recipient needs to keep on record.

  • If you need an element of privacy – text messages aren't end-to-end encrypted, meaning they can be hacked into by scammers with the know-how. However, texts are more discreet than phone calls, which can be easily overheard.

  • When you're in danger – it doesn't bear thinking about, but if you're ever in a position where you need to secretly alert someone of your location because your life is at risk, sending a quick text could be the best way.

Scared person with head in hands

Disadvantages of texting

Sometimes, text-based communication won't be the best option, such as if your message is highly urgent and requires an instant response. Your text might not be picked up right away amidst many other notifications.

The same goes for if you need to have a detailed conversation. There's a 160-character limit for a standard SMS, after which your content might be cut off or get sent as multiple messages – the latter costing extra. Even if you send several texts within the limit, conversing back and forth with your recipient will be time-consuming and perhaps a little frustrating.

SMS only supports text-based content, not any other media, including voice notes. And finally, it's not super secure for communicating private or sensitive information. A text message pinging up on a mobile phone lock screen may get seen by unwanted parties.

When phone calls work best

Voice calls are great for having detailed conversations and getting recipients to respond immediately. As you'll be hearing someone's voice, you can be 100% sure that the other person is present and paying attention to what you have to say.

Actually talking to the recipient is much more personal; you can easily convey emotion to ensure your message is delivered appropriately. For example, you can give constructive feedback to an employee and use tone of voice to make sure what you're saying doesn't come across as negative. Whereas a text message, being short and direct in nature, could appear abrupt and critical.

Phone calls can create stronger bonds compared to text messaging, so they're great for communicating with friends and family or when building relationships with clients, customers or business networking associates.

Another reason you might want to choose calls is if you want the ability to video chat with someone. Video calls work over the internet through apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and Zoom.

Disadvantages of calling

With voice calls, you can't reach large numbers of people simultaneously, especially if you're making regular phone calls over cell networks.

Calling is often more expensive than texting, at least in a business environment. And imagine how inconvenient and time-consuming it'd be to ring a large group of people back to back to convey the same message to each one!

Another downside to voice calls is that they can disturb people and make them stop what they're doing. This can cause them to be upset or annoyed and even ignore your call entirely.

If recipients don't recognise your number, or it flashes up as unknown, they may be inclined to reject your call anyway – this is what most Americans do, according to Pew Research.

Finally, there's the security aspect to consider. Sensitive and personal information is often transmitted through cell phone calls and may be subject to eavesdropping – unintentionally or intentionally. Hackers with the right spyware and exploits can tap into phone calls and listen to conversations.

Man wearing orange jumper using mobile phone

Is texting or calling better?

Text messages and voice calls each have their pros and cons. Which is best depends on several factors, such as the reason for the communication, the target audience, recipients' preferences, privacy and budget.

If you need to contact a large target audience for business purposes, i.e. for marketing or transactional communications, a mass texting service like Messente can help.

Create your free account today to see how Messente works.