A Short Guide to MMS Picture Messaging

Text is great, but sometimes you want a picture

What to Know

  • MMS is a mobile messaging standard that, unlike short message service (SMS), allows you to send pictures, video, and audio.
  • Most service carriers allow for MMS messages of up to 300 KB, although newer standards allow for 600 KB.

Multimedia messaging service (MMS) takes short message service (SMS)—the technology that sends short, text-only messages from one phone to another—a step further. MMS allows for longer text messages (SMS has a 160-character limit) and supports pictures, video, and audio.

You'll see MMS in action when someone sends you a message as part of a group text or when you receive a picture or video clip in your phone's texting app. Instead of coming in as a normal text, you may get a notification of an incoming MMS message, or you may not get the full message until you're in an area where you have better cellular reception.

Close Up Of Woman Messaging Friends Using Smartphone
Tom Werner / Getty Images

MMS Requirements and Limitations

Most of the time, a mobile phone receives MMS messages the same way it receives SMS texts. Other times, particularly if the MMS message contains large images or videos, it may require internet access. In such cases, MMS messages may count against your monthly data allowance.

MMS technology supports video clips up to 40 seconds in length, ringtones, audio clips, contact cards, and more. Some cellular carriers impose a maximum file size of 300 kilobytes (KB) for MMS messages, although no standard exists by which carriers must abide, and newer MMS tech allows for messages of up to 600 KB.

MMS Alternatives

Sending media files and long text messages is easy when you're texting because you don't have to leave the texting app or go through a different menu to send someone a video. Alternatives to MMS exist, such as apps or services built specifically for media and long text messages. These alternatives use the internet (Wi-Fi or cellular data) to send text and media files as data.

For example, you can upload photos and videos to an online file-storage service such as Google Photos, an app that works on iOS and Android. With Google Photos, you can upload videos and photos to your Google account, then share them with your friends and family.

The popular imaging sharing app Snapchat simplifies sharing photos and short videos between Snapchat users, making it more like texting. The app supports texting over the internet. If you want to send messages longer than 160 characters, consider text messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger.

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