What’s The Difference Between iMessage and Text Messages on iPhone?

Underneath the surface, iMessages and text messages are fundamentally different technologies, even though they both live in the Messages app on your iPhone. I think it’s important for every iPhone owner to know the difference between text messages and iMessages, because that knowledge can have a significant impact on your phone bill.

Text Messages

Regular text messages use the text messaging plan that you purchase through your carrier. There are two kinds of text messages:

  • SMS (Short Message Service): The original text messages that we’ve been using for years. SMS messages are limited to 160 characters and can only contain text.
  • MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service): MMS messages extend the capability of original text messages, and support sending photos, longer text messages, and other content.

Carriers used to charge more to send MMS messages than SMS messages, and some still do. Nowadays, most carriers most charge the same amount for SMS and MMS messages and count them as part of a single text messaging plan.

iMessages

iMessages are fundamentally different than text messages because they use data to send messages, not the text messaging plan you purchase through your wireless carrier.

Benefits Of Using iMessage

  • iMessage does a whole lot more than SMS or MMS: iMessage supports sending photos, videos, files, locations, and a slew of other data types using the Messages app.
  • iMessage works over Wi-Fi: As you can imagine, sending and receiving photos or videos can use a lot of data, and you pay for that data using with your cellular data plan. If you’re connected to Wi-Fi, you can send iMessages without using your cellular data or text messaging plan.
  • iMessage is faster than SMS or MMS: SMS and MMS messages are sent using different technology than your iPhone uses to connect to the internet. You can send photos and other large files a lot faster using iMessage than you can using MMS messages.

The One Drawback

  • iMessage only works between Apple devices. You can send and receive iMessages from iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Macs, but not from Android phones, PCs, or other devices. If you’re in a group text with 8 people and 1 person has an Android phone, the entire conversation will use SMS or MMS messages – the type of message that everyone’s phone is capable of having.

How To Avoid A Large Phone Bill Because Of iMessage

Cellular data is expensive, and people ask me about it all the time. I’ve written an article about how to find out what’s using data on your iPhone, and iMessage can be a major culprit. Since iMessage can send photos, videos, and other large files, iMessages can eat through your cellular data plan very quickly.

Remember this: The iMessages you receive use your data plan too. Try to use Wi-Fi as much as possible when you’re sending or receiving lots of photos or videos using the Messages app.

I hope this article has helped you understand the differences between iMessages and text messages. Thanks for reading, and if you have any other questions about your iPhone, the Payette Forward Facebook Group is a great place to get help.

All the best, and remember to pay it forward,
David P.

About Author

I'm a former Apple employee and the founder of Payette Forward, and I'm here to help you with your iPhone.

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Karen
1 year ago

Thank you for this article. I have an iPhone, and cannot receive group messages if anyone has an android. I am assuming its a setting or preference set somewhere on my phone, but I can’t find it? My husband also has an iPhone and can get group messages that include Androids and we are baffled why our two phones are different. Suggestions? TIA

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1 year ago

[…] What’s The Difference Between iMessage and Text Messages on iPhone? […]

Ted
1 year ago

How can I be receiving iMessages from an email address that is unknown to me in a group text? I have also been receiving text messages from phone numbers that when I look them up on Whitepages it says they do not exist. I have unknown senders turned on so these unknown Numbers and email addresses should not be coming through to my phone. I am very worried. Please advise.

Admin
David Lynch
1 year ago
Reply to  Ted

I’d recommend checking out our article about what to do when iMessage isn’t working.

Gwen
11 months ago
Reply to  David Lynch

In your Settings for Messages you can select.

Anonymous
2 years ago

Wow very helpful.. Thanks!!

Anonymous
2 years ago

Today I received a message stating you carrier may charge for SMS to activate iMessages I clicked OK. Then suddenly some absurd messages were sent from my iphone6 to a phone number 44 7786 205094 and I was charged Rupee 5/- for each message sent (without my knowledge)
I phone my carrier BSNL ( Govt of India company) about this strenge thing. I was told to delete all such messages and Switch Off the phone and restart.
I did so and keeping my fingers crossed!

Anonymous
2 years ago

From my iPad and phone both show in blue, but when I message (using iMessage) sometimes shows on phone sometimes not.

Anonymous
2 years ago

I do NOT use iMessage. I cannot open iMessages or respond to them!

Anonymous
2 years ago

I stop iMessaging because it dropped my balance by my carrier. I try to change my sims by different networks, but the problem was remain there.

Anonymous
3 years ago

but then why do text messages from my iphone appear on my iMessages on my Mac??

Anonymous
3 years ago

Thank you! very informative.

Anonymous
3 years ago

There is another drawback, besides the one mentioned in the article. If you have iMessage enabled and you’re not connected to Wi-Fi, you must have your cellular data turned on to send or receive a text. I keep my data turned off most of the time to save money, so if I’m out in my car, etc., I won’t be able to receive texts from iMessage users.

Anonymous
4 years ago

How do I avoid the “send as” screen. I don’t need that, just want to send a text, do care how it goes

Anonymous
4 years ago

Thank you,

Anonymous
4 years ago

wow ,Thanks

Anonymous
4 years ago

I have a question. I understand that to use iMessages all parties have to have an Apple product. However, right now I’m texting two people with Apple phones and only one is showing up as an iMessag. What’s the deal with that?

red
3 months ago
Reply to  Anonymous

 
I have a question. I understand that to use iMessages all parties have to have an Apple product. However, right now I’m texting two people with Apple phones and only one is showing up as an iMessag. What’s the deal with that?

Editor
Colin Boyd
3 months ago
Reply to  red

Sometimes, if someone’s Wi-Fi or cellular data connection is spotty, an iPhone will send iMessages as standard SMS messages. Occasionally, I’ve received both SMS and iMessage versions of the same message from someone encountering this error.

Anonymous
4 years ago

Wow! Thank you for explaining this in layman’s terms.

Anonymous
4 years ago

My new iPhone won’t let pics go via text either- I’m mad

Anonymous
4 years ago

thanks, lots

Anonymous
4 years ago

I never heard of iMessage. I sent someone a smile face through text message and they got it cause I got a smile face from them. Then I sent a message would they have gotten that

Anonymous
4 years ago

Can you explain why some people receive your messages and some don’t when you use iMessage? Thanks

Anonymous
4 years ago

I switched from iMessage back to message and now my messages aren’t going through to other iMessage users. I changed from iMessage as my daughter wasn’t getting my messages, even though she has an iPhone. I’m confused!!

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