MMS vs. SMS: What’s the Difference? With Examples and How to Use Each with Customers

Woman looking at mms text on her phone

When it comes to texting, there are acronyms abound! In this blog post, we’ll go over two of the most popular ones: MMS and SMS. Learn the difference between SMS and MMS, including the definition of each along with a few examples.

The main difference between SMS and MMS

SMS and MMS are both considered text messages but with a key difference: An SMS is a plain text message, and an MMS is a text message with a multimedia attachment, such as a picture, video or GIF.

MMS vs SMS differences

An SMS is a plain text message, while an MMS is a text message with a multimedia component (photo, audio file, GIF or video).

Below, let’s review more about the nuances of MMS vs. SMS and get into details about how to use both types of text messages with customers.

What is SMS messaging? And what does SMS stand for?

SMS stands for Short Message Service. An SMS text message is comprised of plain text and is limited to 160 characters. Any text over the character limit is broken into multiple messages depending on the length. Links can be included in SMS messages. SMS comes standard on all mobile phones, and messages are sent over a cellular network.

There are also a few confusing points to clarify about the difference between SMS and MMS compared to a few other notable texting services.

What is the difference between iMessage and SMS?
If you text with the iMessage app on your iPhone, you are not using SMS. You are instead using OTT messaging, which stands for Over the Top. This category also includes WhatsApp, WeChat and other similar apps. The main difference between SMS and OTT is that SMS messages are sent over a cellular network and OTT messages are sent over an internet connection.

An iMessage can also be an MMS because iMessage can include both plain text and multimedia components.

If you’re an iPhone user, you may wonder, “Why are some texts blue and some green?” in your conversation windows. Blue messages mean iMessage is being used by all parties to send and receive texts. When messages are green, it means the messages were sent as an SMS instead. This happens for a few reasons. One, if one user has iMessage but the other does not, the iMessage will be sent as an SMS (commonly seen in conversations between iPhone and Android users). Two, both parties may have iPhones, but someone may either have poor Wi-Fi or cellular connection or they have manually opted out of receiving iMessage texts.

RCS vs. SMS: The evolution of the text message
RCS stands for Rich Communication Service, and it’s the texting protocol that will eventually replace SMS and MMS texting. RCS offers a branding opportunity for businesses by allowing them to display their logo and customized color scheme. For customers, RCS offers a robust experience that includes features such as rich carousel cards, group chats, read receipts, photos, GIFS and maps – similar to what’s currently offered with OTT apps.

An example of RCS features

An example of RCS features in action.

Carriers are expected to roll out RCS on a wide scale in the future, but for now, only Android phone users have access to the messaging platform.

What’s MMS Messaging? And what does MMS stand for?

MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service. MMS messaging is essentially a photo, audio file, video or GIF sent via text. It was created with the same technology as SMS but enabled for sending different forms of multimedia content. The MMS character limit varies depending on the carrier and device.

Using SMS and MMS messages: Examples and use cases

Now that you understand the difference between SMS and MMS, let’s look at how to use them with customers. Use cases will vary depending on your messaging goals.

MMS vs. SMS: Customer communication with SMS Messaging
If your intent is to send a straightforward message, perhaps requiring a simple “yes” or “no” from the customer or a quick exchange, SMS is the way to go. SMS messages are a good option for plain text conversations in uses cases such as:

Appointment reminders and alerts. For salons, medical offices, gyms and any business that relies on scheduling, text alerts for business are a great way to ensure that customers or clients see your message.

SMS appointment reminder example

Customer service and support. Resolve issues faster with a text customer service option so that your customers have an extra, convenient way to reach you.

SMS Customer Service example

Sales. Move sales leads down the funnel faster by creating a steady cadence of text communication paired with calls and emails.

Sales SMS example with prospect

SMS marketing campaigns and promotions. Generate new leads, improve customer engagement and increase revenue with timely messages.

SMS marketing and promotions example

MMS vs. SMS: Customer communication with MMS Messaging
Keep in mind, however, that MMS can also be used with the above examples, specifically mobile marketing and customer service and support. MMS allows your business to expand your messages with visual aids (i.e., advertising a sale or a new product) or allows your customers to get their message across more clearly.

For example, MMS (particularly picture messaging) is especially helpful in service and support situations where a customer may want to send proof of product damage or send photos to assess things like job scope or property damage.

MMS message customer service example
MMS can also be used when you have more to say that doesn’t fit into the 160 characters of an SMS message (although some texting-for-business providers offer a much higher character limit).

Does MMS cost more than SMS?

The cost can vary, but if you’re interested in using text messaging to communicate with your customers, texting-for-business software is available at fair, straightforward pricing with features that businesses need to grow.

Zipwhip pricing is spaced out in separate tiers and includes both SMS and MMS messages in each package.


Interested in learning more about how texting can help strengthen your relationship with customers? Download our free e-book The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers.

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