To MMS or SMS, what is the difference?

When choosing to go mobile with your marketing, companies are often faced with the choice between MMS and SMS messaging. What exactly is the difference between the two?

SMS (short message service)

Strictly text based and usually restricted to 160 characters.


  • Text messages can be sent in bulk, i.e. the exact same message can be sent to a number of people at the same time, or a bunch of personalised messages can be forwarded to various recipients.
  • Delivery is almost instant – depending on the network provider.
  • All mobile devices are capable of sending, receiving and displaying SMS.
  • People are very familiar with the sending and receiving of text messages – it isn’t difficult or problematic to understand and use.
  • It costs less than sending MMS messages.


  • The character limitation makes it harder for marketers to say everything they would like. They have to keep their messages very short and to the point without the impact of visuals. This can be hard when trying to establish an emotional connection to your product.
  • Vulnerable to spoofing and spamming

MMS (multimedia message service)

Instead of sending only text, the user can add photographs, videos and sound.


  • It is an extremely useful marketing tool for a business as it allows for small, full coloured adverts and/ or messages with a catchy jingle or voice track.
  • It allows room for creativity and fun – your message can look different every time. No boredom or plainness here!
  • Can transfer more data at a time.
  • Have more characters available for texting than SMS.


  • Older handsets are not capable of sending and receiving multimedia messages.
  • Some phones might be configured poorly or the user never activated the settings leading to delivery failure
  • It is more expensive to send in bulk

Choosing to use either MMS or SMS will depend on what you want to communicate to your target audience. If you want to advertise a new product, go for the picture perfect world of multimedia messaging. If your message is of a more passing nature (e.g. alert, notification, reminder) a text message will be quicker and easier.

Herman Cremer
A seasoned professional with 20 years of experience in digital & mobile solutions and advertising.


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