What is MMS? A look at Multimedia Messaging Service

By Jonathan Hassell

What is MMS? Multimedia Messaging Service — MMS for short — is a universal protocol for sending rich media such as pictures, videos and animations between mobile phones and tablets. It is an extension of the regular Short Message Service (SMS), which is generally referred to as texting.

Taking SMS to the next level

SMS involves sending ASCII character text messages between mobile phones virtually instantly. There is some latency involved in transmitting messages, but it is generally a push message, where the target mobile phone receives the communication actively, rather than a pull notification, where the target mobile phone would be set up to retrieve messages from a queue every so often.

Though SMS supports only the plain text method of communication, MMS opens up the instantaneous nature of mobile-to-mobile communication to pictures, videos, sound files and more. The following formats can be used with MMS messaging:

  • Text with rich formatting such as bold, italics, different fonts and different colors
  • Images in .GIF and .JPEG formats
  • Audio in .MIDI and .MP3 formats
  • Video in .MPEG format

Though standard, pure SMS only supports 160-byte messages — which is extraordinarily small in a world of gigabyte movie files and terabyte hard drives — MMS removes that size limitation. However, in doing so, it requires a 3G network or above, so phones that only work on GPRS or 2G networks are out of luck when it comes to sending and receiving MMS messages, unless such messages conform to the 160-byte limit of pure SMS.

MMS in the enterprise

You may have heard your team ask, “What is MMS? How can we work with it?” Enterprise marketers can make use of MMS by sending multimedia notifications to their customers and prospects.

Because they don’t exist within an app or as a separate email message, MMS messages are a good tool for marketing. They tend to be noisier and at the forefront of your recipients’ attention. Plus, it’s possible to use MMS to forward MMS messages directly to other phones, increasing the chances your message will spread and possibly even go viral.

MMS can provide a way for you to send graphic-heavy, visually appealing coupons to your users who have opted in to such a service. You could also send a map to your nearest location right to the phone of a visitor or prospect, giving personalized service and support.

For these reasons, more marketers and enterprises are adding MMS to their mobile strategies. MMS allows marketers to explore more creative means of promotion and take customer communications to the next level.

Written By

Jonathan Hassell

President, 82 Ventures

Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures, a technical writing and consulting firm based in Charlotte, NC. He centers his focus around network administrator, security, the cloud, and mobile technologies.

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