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MMS vs. SMS: What’s the Difference Between SMS and MMS?

SMS and MMS are two of the most common terms in text messaging. Learn what they mean and why the difference matters.

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Text message marketing is chock-full of confusing acronyms, and if you’re a business owner who’s just starting out in the texting world, it pays to know what they mean.

The two most popular acronyms in the text messaging industry are SMS (Short Message Service) and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service). 


What is SMS Messaging?

SMS, which stands for Short Message Service, is a fancy term for text messages under 160 characters. If you want to get technical, it’s a special communications protocol created to send and receive text messages over cellular networks. 

The first text message was sent via the SMS protocol way back in 1992. It is the most widespread and frequently used texting technology.

What is MMS Messaging?

MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service, and it’s a type of texting that involves media (like videos, images, GIFs, and audio) and up to 1,600 characters. 

MMS is an extension of the core SMS protocol, and it was developed to enable the transmission of multimedia content via text message. 

What Is the Difference Between SMS and MMS?

The main difference between SMS and MMS messages is the type of content you can send. With SMS, you can only use plain text under 160 characters. (With extended SMS, you can send up to 306 characters.) 

MMS allows you to send images, videos, audio, GIFs, PDFs, and text up to 1,600 characters. However, because of the increased character length, MMS messages typically cost more to send.

TL;DR: SMS comes with a 160-character limit, while MMS allows for 1,600 characters as well as media such as pictures, videos, or audio.

You’ll run into these two terms most often in the phrases “SMS marketing” and “MMS marketing.”

Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s get into the more specific differences between SMS and MMS, as well as when to use each type of message.

SMS vs. MMS at a Glance

Almost all devices support both SMS and MMS, so the good news is that you usually don’t need to stick to one over the other. And realistically, a good text marketing strategy should include a combination of the two to keep some variety in your messaging.

As you can see here, SMS and MMS text messages can look quite different, meaning you can match the message type to the text you’re sending.

A visual example of differences between an SMS message and an MMS message.

The biggest differences between SMS and MMS messages go beyond the visual elements and MMS’ ability to include media. 

SMS messages are best for quick text-based alerts or notices, while MMS messages are perfect for highlighting products, sales, or anything that needs a visual element.

The table below highlights some of the practical differences between MMS and SMS messages to help you pick the best option for each scenario.

Stands for Short Messaging Service Multimedia Messaging Service
Images Appear as links Appear directly in message
Maximum length 160 characters 1,600 characters
Price 1 credit 3 credits

You can group the main differences between SMS and MMS into three areas:

  • Character limits
  • Supported media
  • Pricing

1. MMS gives you way more space

Where SMS marketing only allows for up to 160 characters per text, MMS marketing allows for an unlimited number of characters per text, at least technically speaking.

Practically speaking, wireless carriers tend to limit the length of MMS messages, but the result is still a lot roomier than SMS.

At SimpleTexting, for example, you get up to 1,600 characters per MMS message.

2. MMS lets you embed rich media

MMS also gives you the ability to embed rich media like images, audio files, baby elephant GIFs, and short video clips. 

With SMS, you can only include links to your media — you can’t add it directly to the text itself.

3. There is different pricing for SMS and MMS messages

MMS messages cost a bit more than SMS messages because they involve transmitting more data.

The difference in cost varies from provider to provider. With SimpleTexting’s text messaging platform, MMS costs 3 credits per message. SMS, on the other hand, costs 1 credit per message.

The nice thing is that you can mix and match your MMS and SMS messages to suit your messaging strategy. 

For example, if you buy a 1,000-credit plan, you can send 400 SMS messages and 200 MMS messages. (400 + [200*3] = 400 + 600 = 1,000.)

Cost breakdown of SMS vs. MMS

In case you’re wondering, “Why should I pay more for MMS?”, the answer is simple: MMS campaigns have a 20% higher opt-in rate than SMS campaigns, and MMS messages are 8x more likely to be shared on social media. Pics and GIFs are much more engaging than plain old text.

Don’t take our word for it, though. Check out these SimpleTexting customers who got amazing results using MMS.

When Should You Use SMS vs. MMS?

When choosing between MMS and SMS for your campaigns, consider your goals for each campaign and what kind of content you plan to send. 

There are no hard and fast rules—these are just helpful guidelines as you plan your messaging.

When to Use SMS Messages

We recommend choosing SMS for messages where “short and sweet” makes the most sense. SMS is perfect for communicating important details, from order confirmations to time-sensitive alerts.

SMS messages are also great for campaigns where you’re bringing contacts in using a keyword

A keyword is simply a short word or phrase that contacts can text to your number to agree to receive texts from you. If you’re expecting a lot of new contacts, using SMS for your confirmation message can help keep your costs low. 

Here’s an example:

You are now signed up for text updates about the 5th Annual Easton Marathon. Reply with your email to get updates there, too.

SMS messages also work well for transactional texts like:

  • Order confirmations and delivery tracking
  • Appointment reminders and updates
  • Updates
  • Password resets and two-factor authentication (2FA)

Finally, many of our awesome customers also use SMS for marketing and promotions, generating new sales, and improving engagement with coupons and other offers.

When to Use MMS Messages

Most promotional text messages benefit from photos, GIFs, or videos. 

The reason is simple: Those who use visual communication to get their message across to an audience are more successful than those who rely on words alone. 

We ran an A/B test with a SimpleTexting customer to prove the concept, and the test found that the MMS message in the test received a 52% higher click-through rate (CTR) than the SMS message. 

Consider sending MMS when you want to:

  • Show off your product
  • Offer a mobile coupon
  • Invite your contacts to an event
  • Send a birthday or anniversary message
  • Run a competition

Image for sending MMS
The first 50 people who show this image on their phone at checkout receive 20% off their entire purchase. 


  1. Is Android SMS or MMS?
    Android devices can send and receive both SMS and MMS messages through the Messages app. 
  1. Do all phones receive MMS messages?
    Not exactly. Smartphones are very common nowadays, but not every phone owner has one, and some cell phone plans don’t allow for MMS. 
  1. What are the disadvantages of MMS?
    We love MMS, but as with all things, it does have a few cons. 
  • MMS costs more than SMS because of the data transmission involved.
  • MMS messages may not reach contacts who can’t receive them because of their cell phone or plan.
  • If you’re sending images or video, you’ll need to be careful that your media is high-quality and well-designed (which means you may need someone on your team to design your visuals).

Start Using SMS and MMS Messages in Your Marketing Strategy

We all love exciting visuals, so it’s not surprising that text messages with pictures typically drive more engagement. However, with conversion rates from SMS campaigns as high as 45%, your text marketing strategy should include a mixture of both.

If you’re interested in SMS or MMS marketing, here are some helpful links to get you started:

If you’d prefer to chat with someone, our team of SMS marketing experts would love to help. We’re available 7 days a week. Text or call us at (866) 450-4185 or use the chat icon at the bottom of your screen.

Drew Wilkinson
Drew Wilkinson

Drew Wilkinson is the Head of Marketing at SimpleTexting. Drew has more than a decade of experience managing successful integrated marketing programs to build brands, raise awareness, and generate demand.

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