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MMS vs. SMS: How Are They Different?

Learn what SMS and MMS stand for and understand the differences between these two forms of text messaging.

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The two most popular acronyms in the text messaging industry are SMS which stands for Short Message Service and MMS which stands for Multimedia Messaging Service. SMS allows users to send a message that is up to 160 characters long, while MMS allows users to send a message that contains media such as pictures, videos, or audio to other users.

SMS and MMS are the two acronyms that you will most likely notice popping up here and there when it comes to business texting services––as often as the phrases SMS marketing and MMS marketing.

We usually get quite a few questions about the differences between the two, and when it’s best to send an MMS message and when it’s best to send an SMS.

As almost all devices support SMS and MMS, you don’t need to pick one over the other. As you’ll see in the following article, a good text marketing strategy should include a combination of the two.

SMS vs. MMS at a glance

Both SMS and MMS messages fall under the category of “text messages.” In short, the difference between the two is that SMS can only contain text, whereas MMS can have pictures.

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

Below we’ll dive into the differences in detail. In particular, we cover:

  • The Definition of SMS and MMS
  • The Difference Between SMS and MMS
  • Examples of SMS and MMS Messages
  • Use Cases for SMS and MMS
  • MMS and SMS Pricing

What is SMS messaging and what does SMS stand for?

SMS stands for Short Message Service. Short Message Service is 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 and what does MMS stand for?

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

How Are MMS and SMS Different?

The main difference between SMS and MMS messages is the type of content you can send. With SMS, everything you’re including has to be plain text and fit within 160 characters. (With extended SMS, you can send up to 306 characters.) MMS allows you to send images, videos, audio, and GIFs. However, because of the increased character length, MMS messages typically cost more.

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. (Hence the word “multimedia” in Multimedia Messaging Service.)

With SMS, you can only include links to such items—you can’t add the items within the text as you can with MMS.

3. There is different pricing for SMS and MMS

MMS messages cost a bit more than SMS messages because it involves the transmission of 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 however you like. For example, if you purchase a 1,000-credit plan, you can send 400 SMS messages and 200 MMS messages. (400 + [200*3] = 400 + 600 = 1,000.)

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, and that’s why it’s worth paying more for MMS.

Here’s a small selection of SimpleTexting customers benefiting from sending MMS:

Use Cases for SMS vs. MMS

When it comes to choosing between MMS and SMS for your campaigns, it’s best to consider your goals for the campaign and the type of content you plan on sending. And remember, there are no hard and fast rules,i.e., either MMS or SMS works for any of the below examples.

When to Use SMS Messages

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

SMS messages are also great for text-to-join campaigns if you anticipate a large number of sign-ups and want to keep your costs down. If you’re not familiar with how they work, a customer sends a keyword to your company’s phone number to subscribe to receive future texts. You can even request additional information, such as an email address. Here’s an example:

Today 8:25 AM
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. Here are some common examples:

  • 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 will benefit from including photos, GIFs, or videos. The reason is simple: research has shown that those who use visual communication to persuade an audience are 43% more successful than those who rely on words alone

This is backed up by an A/B test that we ran with a SimpleTexting customer. We found that the MMS message received a 52% higher click-through rate (CTR). 

For example, you should consider sending MMS when you want to:

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

Today 1:30 PM
The first 50 people who show this image on their phone at checkout receive 20% off their entire purchase. 

More Questions on the Differences Between SMS and MMS?

The bottom line is that people respond well to images, 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, then here are some helpful links:

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 at the bottom of your screen.

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