MMS & SMS: The Difference? (+ RCS) - 2023

May 5, 2023 (Updated) | By Sam Pelton
Woman texting


These acronyms come up from time to time in the texting world. (OK, maybe not JKLMNOP.)

But what in the world do they mean?

Here we’ll go over the differences between these methods of sending texts and what those differences mean for you.

We’ll go over MMS & SMS primarily, and also mention RCS as well.

MMS & SMS: Definitions

First off, MMS and SMS simply have different definitions.

SMS stands for “short message service.” It’s the “standard” texting service that allows the processing of short text messages through cell phone carriers.

MMS stands for “multimedia message service.” It’s the “secondary” texting service that allows the processing of longer text messages including media through cell phone carriers.

Yay, now you’ve learned the jargon! Let’s get more into what it all means.

SMS and MMS Definitions

Media Capability Differences

You may notice that “multimedia message service” (MMS) has the word “multimedia” in its name.

That’s because, as mentioned, one of the primary differences between MMS and SMS is that when sending an MMS, you as the user can attach a media file, such as an image.

With SMS, there are no media capabilities, so essentially all you can send is plain text (with the exception of emojis).

Content Length Differences

Because of how these 2 types of messages are processed, MMS and SMS can include content of different lengths.

SMS is called “short message service” for a reason. It can only have content of up to 160 characters.

Once it hits that 160 character mark, you as the user can still include more content. But the content breaks up into 2 or more messages when you send it.

(Note: most modern phones will concatenate the message when it reaches the recipient, which means it will look to the recipient like it sent as 1 long message, even if it was actually 2 or more.)

In contrast, MMS can have content of 1,600 characters or more.

MMS and SMS Differences

Phone Compatibility Differences

Because SMS is so widely used, it is compatible with virtually all cell phones capable of receiving text messages.

MMS is also compatible with most phones in the United States - in particular, most smartphones.

However, some phones may still not be able to process MMS.

Cost Differences

To many consumers (particularly in the United States), the cost difference between MMS and SMS is a moot point, because we’re all used to free unlimited texting plans.

Unlimited texting usually includes MMS, so there is no difference between the cost to send SMS and the cost to send MMS.

But not everyone is on unlimited texting plans. And for those who still pay per text, sending and receiving MMS can cost a lot more than sending and receiving SMS.

This is especially relevant if you use texting for your business and send messages on a larger scale using a texting platform.

Most texting platforms charge you on the basis of how many messages you send, and MMS use up more of your allotted messaging credits.

MMS & SMS Difference: Comparison

So how do all these differences actually play out?

Here’s a comparison detailing which sending method is better in the different categories:

  • Media capabilities
    • MMS provides more flexibility, since it allows attaching media, such as images (SMS does not allow any media to be attached)
  • Content length
    • MMS provides more flexibility here as well, since it allows 1,600 characters or more per message (SMS only allows up to 160 characters per message)
  • Phone compatibility
    • SMS is the safer option, since virtually all phones support SMS (MMS may not be supported on a small number of devices)
  • Cost
    • SMS is the more inexpensive option, since it costs less per message to send
      • MMS costs more per message
      • (Note: this only applies if you’re using a texting solution that charges per message - If you have unlimited texting, there is no difference between MMS and SMS)

MMS & SMS Difference: Pros and Cons Summary

Below is an overall summary of the pros and cons for both MMS and SMS.



  • Universally compatible across all devices
  • Inexpensive


  • Only 160 characters per message
  • No images or other media content



  • Allows images and other media content
  • 1,600 characters per message


  • Not compatible with some devices
  • More expensive than SMS
Person texting

MMS & SMS: Which Option Is Better?

It’s safe to say that as a whole, MMS provides more flexibility and is a more robust option than SMS.

But MMS is not always necessary or feasible.

If you’re using a texting platform for a business to send to thousands of customers, you may not find it prudent to spend all the extra money on MMS, when a simple SMS could do just fine.

However, the ability to attach images in your MMS could give a big boost to marketing campaigns in particular.

So the bottom line is that neither option is inherently better. It all depends on your purposes.

Here are some use cases detailing which cases MMS might be better vs. when SMS could work just as well:

  • Marketing campaigns: This is where MMS shines the most as an effective option.
    • Being able to send images and other media in your text messages opens up a lot more possibilities to your marketing.
    • Adding visual elements to your marketing campaigns can help them get the most success.
  • Appointment reminders: Since appointment reminders generally only communicate simple informative content, using SMS rather than MMS can save you money.
  • Internal company updates: As with appointment reminders, we’d recommend using SMS for internal company updates, unless the updates go beyond basic info.
  • Event notices/reminders: These typically provide only basic updates, so SMS will suffice.
  • Educational notices: Sometimes texting campaigns have longer, more in-depth information. In these cases MMS would be a better option so that you can include more content without having to split up the message into multiple segments.
  • Announcements: Announcements could be communicated via SMS if they are simple and to-the-point. But if you have a more elaborate announcement, or if you want to use an image to amplify your announcement, it may warrant sending an MMS instead.
  • Basic customer support: If engaging in customer support via texting, there’s typically not a need to include images or long messages, so SMS should generally be the way to go.

This is just a sampling of use cases in which you would have to decide whether you want to send your message as a “regular” SMS or as an MMS.

The good news is that if you’re using a texting platform, you can toggle between SMS or MMS easily at your convenience.

Get a Free 14-Day Trial with Mobile Text Alerts

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MMS and SMS which option is better

What About RCS?

As if MMS and SMS weren’t enough by way of acronyms, there’s another kid on the block: RCS.

“RCS” stands for “rich communication services.

And what’s that?

The answer is a bit complicated. But at this point in history, RCS is essentially Google's alternative to Apple’s iMessage.

Like iMessage, RCS is meant to be a replacement for MMS and SMS. RCS offers robust messaging features like read receipts, higher quality media sharing, and message encryption.

Google heralds RCS as the future of texting. MMS and SMS offer limited functionality compared to some other texting services (such as Facebook Messenger), and RCS attempts to fill that feature gap.

However, with the popularity of Apple’s iMessage, the adoption of Google-led RCS as a standard over SMS/MMS is up in the air.

But it’s good to be aware that, for now, RCS is an option that could gain more traction and grow in popularity.

For those looking to use RCS on a larger scale for their business, there isn’t yet a lot of support for it across mass texting platforms.

But the climate is changing, and you can expect more support and more options for sending RCS in the near future.

Person texting

How to Send MMS & SMS for Your Business

Sending MMS and SMS from your phone is easy, and you already know how to do it.

You just open up your texting app, enter the content for your message, select your recipient, and hit “Send.”

You likely won’t even consciously know you’re sending an “SMS” vs. an “MMS” or vice-versa.

To send SMS/MMS on a larger scale, however, you’ll need a texting platform like Mobile Text Alerts.

That will allow you to send and manage large amounts of messages from an online platform or mobile app.

Once you get a free trial, you’ll be able to try out sending a message.

All you need to do is:

  1. Add the contact(s) you’re wanting to send the message to
  2. Input your message
    • This is the part where you’ll either type out your message as a “regular” SMS, or you’ll choose to send as an MMS instead
    • You can attach an image or other media file, or you can simply choose “MMS” if you want to take advantage of the larger character count allowed by MMS
Send a message screenshot
  1. Click “Send”

You’ll be able to monitor your messaging efforts from the online platform’s reports.

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