SMS and MMS

Customers will often ask us at TXT180, “What is the difference between an SMS message and an MMS message?” This article will instruct those looking for more knowledge regarding the differences between SMS and MMS, and the advantages and disadvantages of both. We’ll define SMS and MMS and the major differences of both types of messaging and how text messaging works.

SMS and MMS Defined

SMS and MMS have some distinct differences in what they can contain. SMS and MMS are defined as:

SMS– stands for “short message service” and is descriptive of the strictly text-based messages that is used with mobile devices. All text messages sent from a mobile phone are considered SMS messages. Sending messages to a group is bulk SMS messaging.

MMS– stands for “multimedia messaging service” and allows for the inclusion of video, picture, audio, etc. into the text message. Whenever a picture message is sent from a mobile phone, this is considered an MMS message.

Both types of messaging are being implemented into text message marketing, more commonly with SMS, while MMS gains more ground as a valuable addition to text message marketing.

SMS Messaging and MMS Differences

There are several differences in SMS and MMS messaging.

Bulk SMS messages are sent via cellular networks and are started by the message transferring to something call a short message service center or SMSC for short. The SMSC then attempts to send the messages to the recipients. There are 2 different methods of delivery for bulk SMS messages: Store and Forward or the Forward and Forget methods.

Store and Forward will receive your message, attempt to deliver it, and if the message isn’t deliverable at the time it will attempt the delivery again at a later time. Forward and Forget will try to deliver the message and if the message is undeliverable, it will discard the message being sent.

As mentioned above, SMS messages are strictly text only. TXT180 uses only the SMS service as our method of delivery. An SMS message can be a maximum of 160 characters whether you are sending one message or if you are doing bulk SMS messaging.

MMS messages are delivered in a completely different way from SMS messages. Much like SMS, an MMS message is delivered to something called a multimedia message service center or MMSC for short. Where MMS differs from SMS is in the delivery of the message.

If the receiving phone is on a different carrier from the sender, the MMS message is sent from the MMSC to the carrier via the Internet. Once there, the receiving carrier tries to determine if the receiving phone is MMS capable. If it is, the content is simply accessed. If it is not, the carrier sends an SMS message to the recipient phone with a URL that contains the content. The user can then access the content at a later time from a internet capable device.

SMS and MMS Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantages and disadvantages between bulk SMS messaging and MMS messaging are tied to the differences between SMS and MMS.

Advantages of Bulk SMS Messaging

  • Easy and quick delivery across carriers
  • Simple text with small data size and overhead
  • Wide array of mobile and application usage

Disadvantages of Bulk SMS Messaging

  • SMS delivery is not guaranteed as the messages are delivered on a “best effort” basis only
  • Strictly text without formatting
  • Subject to different vulnerabilities such as spoofing

Advantages of MMS Messaging

  • Rich multimedia is present in the message allowing for more aesthetically pleasing texts
  • Allows for transfer of data, such as ringtones, over text message
  • Ability to send text messages longer than 160 characters

Disadvantages of MMS Messaging

  • MMS created by one brand phone may not be compatible with another brand of phone’s capabilities
  • Some phones may be configured poorly leading to the failure of MMS delivery
  • Because of the large amount of transferring of MMS to different networks, sending to a large group of customers can be slow

As you can see there are several advantages and disadvantages to both bulk SMS messaging and MMS messaging. For most purposes, the SMS will suit your needs and can even apply some similarities to MMS (such as adding a link to an SMS message to access some kind of content). MMS does offer many advantages over SMS, but poses many disadvantages as well, especially with compatibility among carriers and phones. Depending on what your needs are, determine whether a platform and service offering just SMS messaging or both SMS and MMS messaging capabilities will work for you.

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