What is Text Messaging? Definition of SMS

Young woman using smartphone on footbridge
Atsushi Yamada/Taxi Japan/Getty Images


SMS stands for short message service. SMS is also often referred to as texting, sending text messages or text messaging. The service allows for short text messages to be sent from one cell phone to another cell phone or from the Web to another cell phone.

Including spaces, text messages traditionally can’t exceed 160 characters. SMS messages often use T9 predictive technology. T9 makes text messaging faster and more efficient on non-QWERTY cell phones without full keyboards.

MMS, which is often used to send pictures, extends upon SMS and allows for longer content lengths. Some cell phones have full keyboards for faster texting whereas others require numbers to be tapped multiple times to achieve a particular letter.

While the bulk of a cell phone bill typically is its voice minutes or data usage, text messages are either included in the voice plan or are added as an extra cost. SMS messaging is used pervasively around the globe.

And if you would like to send your friends or family a text-based message, but don't necessarily want to pay for an SMS. You can use apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. With that being said, you'll have to make sure that the recipient is also have one of those apps, and you'll be using your data plan to actually send and receive messages; keep that in mind.



Also Known As:

Texting, text messages, text messaging, short message service


I typed an SMS message on my phone and sent the text to my brother’s smartphone.