MMS vs SMS: What the Difference Is and What Customers Prefer

A scale meant to depict weighing SMS vs. MMS

The average person sends 13 texts daily. Even with the widespread popularity of text messages, most do not know what the difference is between SMS and MMS. Not knowing the definitions of SMS and MMS isn’t going to affect your life, but as they say: the more you know, the more likely you are to do something about it. In this case, it’s a better technical understanding of a communication method you use every single day, multiple times a day.

To sum it up, both MMS and SMS are different types of text messages. SMS is an older technology, launched in the early 1990s, that enables us to send short, word-based messages. MMS is a slightly newer technology from the early 2000s that allows us to send longer messages with images and even video.

But there’s more to the simple differences than that. In this article, we’ll review:

  • What SMS and MMS mean
  • A MMS vs. SMS messaging comparison
  • SMS and MMS for businesses
  • Frequently asked questions

Defining SMS

We’ll start with SMS, which is an acronym for Short Message Service and is considered one of the oldest texting technologies. The first text message was transmitted via SMS in 1992.

Today, SMS is still the most widely used type of message. SMS messages can be up to 160 characters. You can send longer texts up to 918 characters, too, though they will be split into multiple messages.

Example SMS text message

SMS Usage Statistics

It’s difficult to isolate statistics that focus on SMS. Typically, researchers track texts as a whole without dividing them into SMS vs MMS. But one statistic does note that researchers predict nearly 6 billion people will send and receive SMS messages specifically by 2025.

SMS Use Cases for Business

As a business, you can use SMS to send just about any message that doesn’t have images or videos. Most often, teams use SMS for:

  • Announcements (product, service, or operational)
  • Appointment reminders
  • Follow-ups
  • Order confirmations
  • Password resets and two-factor authentication
  • Polls
  • Updates (account or loyalty program)

Defining MMS

Approximately a decade later, the Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) was introduced in the early 2000s. Built on the same basic technology as SMS, MMS was designed to allow people to send multimedia content—like audio, photos, and videos— as an attachment in their messages

Cell phone users most often use MMS to send photos from person to person. MMS also allows people to send messages with virtually no length limits. While the maximum length of texts depends on the carrier and the receiving device, most carriers cite 300 KB as the largest size they will process.

Example MMS message

MMS Usage Statistics

Again, many researchers don’t differentiate SMS from MMS. However, researchers did find that American consumers sent 28% more MMS messages between 2019 and 2020. In other words, more people are sending messages with GIFS, memes, videos, and emojis.

MMS Use Cases for Business

You can use MMS to send texts that need a little more explanation or extra flair. For example, you can use it to:

  • Send messages far over the 160-character limit (usually up to 1600 characters)
  • Add emojis or GIFs to texts
  • Attach (or receive) photos, videos, or audio

Are MMS and SMS different from iMessages? 

iMessages are encrypted messages sent between two people with Apple products using their specific technology. They can be sent over Wi-Fi or cellular networks. You can tell when you’re using iMessage because the bubbles are blue. (Apple puts SMS/MMS messages in green bubbles.)

Are MMS and SMS different from Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, and other messaging platforms?

Yes! Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, and other messaging apps are over the top (OTT) applications. They don’t require a cellular connection to work, just the internet. In addition, your phone doesn’t come with them; you have to install them.

Comparing MMS vs. SMS

These two text formats share a lot of similarities—but they have their differences too. These can make or break your case for using either. Here’s a comparison of MMS vs. SMS:

Venn diagram comparing SMS vs. MMS


First and foremost, both MMS and SMS are types of text messages that you send through your mobile phone. Other similarities include:

  • Technology. Because MMS was originally built for SMS users, both MMS and SMS work from the same basic technology. They are both sent via cellular networks, too.
  • Use requirements. To use either MMS or SMS, customers only need a cellphone that sends MMS and a wireless plan from their respective carriers. Most modern phones will send and receive MMS messages. If you’re trying to send MMS through a business texting platform, you just need to ensure the platform offers it, which it should.
  • Availability. Because their only requirement is a wireless plan, both MMS and SMS are widely available to cellphone owners. If a customer receives a message in either format, it’s likely that they will be able to view it. However, there are always going to be exceptions. Some phone users might need to specifically enable MMS messages, too. For example, users who own older Android phone models will need to adjust their settings to receive MMS.


There are some differences between the channels, too. SMS and MMS differences are:

  • Content. One of the key differences between MMS and SMS is the type of messages that they can send. Simply put, SMS messages can only contain plain text, while MMS messages can contain other types of content, like photos and video.
  • Length. Phone users can send long SMS messages of up to 918 characters, but they will be split into messages of 160 characters each. MMS messages are only limited by carrier data limits, which are usually liberal.
  • Cost. MMS can be more expensive because it takes more data for your carriers to send them. However, many phone providers roll MMS into unlimited texting bundles. For businesses, some platforms also fold the price of MMS into their general messaging cost. Others might charge slightly more for each MMS message.

MMS for Businesses: What Do Customers Prefer?

Because successful business text messaging is often customer service-centric, most messages you send will be short, like reminders and notifications. These messages don’t require content like photos or videos. That means simple SMS is a sure bet most of the time.

However, you need images in some situations. For example, if you need to offer technical support, sending instructional pictures might be a must-have. Customer service teams may want to send welcome or onboarding videos—or just add cheerful emojis to their messages. In fact, nearly half of Gen-Zers say they prefer agents to use emojis in chats. These all require MMS capabilities.

MMS can be especially useful for marketing teams. Attaching emojis, photos, or GIFs to SMS marketing content can help your SMS marketing have a bigger impact. Case in point:

With the versatility of both SMS and MMS, you’ll be more likely to capture customers’ attention and meet their needs.

How to Use Both SMS and MMS

Using both SMS and MMS can help you take texting to the next level, delighting your leads and helping you connect with customers on another level.

A business text messaging platform should offer both options, and automatically make the decision of which technology to use for you. For example, if you send a message with text only, the platform should know to use SMS. If you send a text with an emoji, it should know to use MMS.

Frequently Asked Questions

Even with these definitions in hand, you might still have questions about SMS and MMS. Before we compare MMS vs. SMS messages, take a look at these clarifying answers to common questions:

What happens if an SMS message is too long, exceeding the 160-character limit? 

If an SMS message is too long, one of two things will happen. If your phone doesn’t have MMS capabilities, your phone will split the message into chunks. If it does have MMS capabilities, the message will be converted into MMS format.

What types of files can I send with MMS? 

Different phones and platforms support different file types. Typically, you will be able to send files in the following formats: JPEG, PNG, and GIF. In general, all messages must be smaller than 5 MB.

The Bottom Line: SMS vs. MMS

SMS and MMS are useful texting tools, whether you’re texting for personal purposes or business. Using both allows you to lighten up texts with emojis, share fun videos or photos, and make texting that much more dynamic.

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