Articles on: SMS/WhatsApp

The Difference Between SMS and MMS


It comes as no surprise that the trend towards texting is exploding and is continuing to be a powerful tool for companies to connect with their contacts quickly.

Researchers anticipate that business text messaging and mobile usage is a force that is here to stay and not just a trend that will pass by. As a matter of fact, the next generation of text messaging is already upon us; it is called MMS messaging.

However, what is the difference? Find out the answer in this guide!

What is SMS?

SMS is an acronym for "Short Message Service," which is the oldest, most widespread, and frequently used texting technology supported by every single mobile network and device today. SMS messages are limited to 160 alphanumeric characters per message (that's simply a fancy word for both letters and numbers).

SMS falls into a different category than "over-the-top" (OTT) apps like iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat. OTT apps require WiFi or a mobile internet connection, whereas SMS requires only a mobile network connection.

Over 5 billion people all over the world can send and receive SMS messages, making it the most popular and widespread method of mobile communication.

What is MMS?

MMS stands for "Multimedia Messaging Services," which uses the same technology as SMS. But as its name suggests, MMS enables you to send text messages containing a range of multimedia content, such as pictures, video files, GIFs, and audio.

Most mobile devices support MMS texting. If a recipient's device doesn't support MMS messages, they will receive a text message directing them to the URL where they can view it.

Similarity between SMS and MMS

SMS and MMS are alike in an important way: consent.

MMS marketing falls under the same consent guidelines as SMS. That means you don't need to re-gather consent from your current SMS subscribers for MMS marketing. If you already have someone's permission for SMS marketing, you can start sending them MMS messages immediately.

Learn how to collect SMS & MMS subscribers right here.

Differences between SMS and MMS

There are a handful of differences between SMS and MMS, which affect the experience and costs of using each of these services for business. 

Ability to send media

This is the key difference between SMS and MMS. MMS includes media besides just text (i.e., images), while SMS messages include only text.

In AVADA, all text messages start out as an SMS message. You have the option to add MMS right into the text message. Once an image is added, your message will automatically be converted to an MMS. You're able to see the image appear in the preview. Any message that doesn't include an image or GIF will remain as an SMS.

With MMS, you can send subscribers texts with branded images. You can display a product, your brand logo, an ad, a coupon, a graphic design, etc. Using an image or GIF can help your messages stand out as well as make it feel more human.

But you will not always want to include an image. Text-only messages are sometimes more direct and better for messages where you want to be straight to the point or the message is time-sensitive.

For example, with a transactional message, your goal is to keep the recipient updated about the status of their order/ delivery, which doesn't require an accompanying image or GIF. We recommend crafting your content first, then adding an image or GIF. This way, you can know whether the media enhances your message or not.

Sending numbers

In AVADA, you can send an MMS message from any type of number:

- US/ CA long code phone numbers

- US short code phone numbers

Meanwhile, you can send an SMS message to above types plus toll-free numbers as well.

Space and character limit

Another thing separating SMS and MMS is the character count. SMS messages can have up to 160 characters - 70 with an emoji. As for MMS messages, they can have 1600 characters. This gives you more space to explain your brand to recipients, including key details about events or product launches, or provide updates as you would in an email newsletter.

While MMS allows for longer messages, we recommend to still aim for around 160 characters. The best practice when creating content for text messages is to be as personal and concise as possible. SMS naturally has this limit, and is the best choice to quickly convey important information.

Note that the character count does not just include your letters and punctuation, emojis and symbols are also counted.

Number of sends

In general (If each message is under character limit):

- SMS messages count as one send

- MMS messages count as three sends

This applies to both campaigns and workflows. So, when picking a plan remember to take into account how many MMS messages you plan to send.

Device compatibility

Device compatibility can be a concern for sending MMS messages.

Almost any mobile device can receive an SMS message. But only more advanced options, such as smartphones, can receive MMS messages. If the device is unable to display an image or video, it simply can't show the media in an MMS message.

So, for critical communication, like appointment reminders and accepting payments via text, SMS is the best option. You definitely need those types of messages to reach the recipient, regardless of what kind of phone they have.


In AVADA, you need to buy SMS/MMS credits before sending and you only pay for the number of SMS/MMS you sent out. SMS or MMS price is different and calculated based on the country you send them to (recipients' countries).

Scroll down this pricing page for more information.

When to use SMS messages?

Businesses have the option to communicate with people via SMS and MMS messages. But both are used for very different reasons, and if you get one mixed up with the other, you could be jeopardizing your text messaging campaign and have a bunch of confused customers on your hands. SMS and MMS may be similar, but they are not interchangeable.

We recommend using SMS for any communication where "short and sweet" makes the most sense. Generally, SMS is perfect for communicating essential details, from order confirmations to time-sensitive alerts.

SMS messages are also excellent for text-to-join campaigns if you anticipate a large number of sign-ups and want to keep your costs down. If you are not familiar with how they work, a customer sends a keyword (e.g., JOIN) to your company's phone number to subscribe to receive future texts.

SMS messages also work well for transactional texts. Below are some common examples:

- Order confirmations and delivery tracking

- Appointment reminders and updates

- Bill payment reminders

- Updates

- Password resets and two-factor authentication (2FA)

Finally, many marketers also use SMS for promotions and marketing, 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, videos, or GIFs. The reason is simple: Researchers have found that those who use visual communication to persuade an audience are 43% more successful than those who rely on words alone.

MMS lets you enhance your messages with multimedia elements. You can embellish your texts with high-quality graphics, company logos, short videos, or even creative holiday designs to engage customers in a fresh new way. You can also format the MMS content with your company colors and logo to maintain a consistent brand image across all your marketing efforts.

You should consider sending MMS messages when you want to:

- Show off your products

- Offer mobile coupons

- Invite your subscribers to an event

- Send an anniversary or birthday message

- Run a competition

Note: Proceed with caution when creating content to send via MMS. Media will show up differently depending on the quality of the recipient's phone and operating system.

Images with certain resolutions may show up differently on iOS and Android phones. Conversely, an audio clip that is clear on one device may sound grainy on another. It is always smart to test MMS messages on various devices before sending them out in bulk to your customers.

SMS vs. MMS: Which one should you use?

Both SMS and MMS enable you to connect with customers without requiring them to open an email or switch on the TV. They offer a seamless way to get in touch with your customers, remind them of your presence and prompt them to return to your business.

When choosing between SMS and MMS, consider your business goals, objectives, and the type of content you plan to send. Below are some questions you should ask yourself:

- What is your business budget? SMS is typically cheaper, so you will be able to send more messages at a more affordable cost per message.

- Is your message informational or promotional? Informational messages work best via SMS. Promotions and creative messages can go both ways, but you will have more creative leeway with MMS.

- How long is the content you want to send? SMS character limitation could be an obstacle if you need to send lengthy messages.

Updated on: 28/08/2021

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