Difference between SMS and iMessage

By: | Updated: Dec-16, 2017

Communication has been made easy with the advent of smartphones and other technological gadgets. The availability of messaging services such as SMS and iMessage enabled people to keep in touch with family members, friends and colleagues in more simple and affordable means. Both SMS and iMessage were designed to provide convenient social contact, but these messaging services also differ in several ways. This article will help you understand the basics of SMS and iMessage, as well as their differences.

Summary Table

Green background (for Apple gadgets)Blue background (for Apple gadgets)
Messages limited to 160 characters (purely text)Can send longer messages, may also send photos, videos and documents
Uses text messaging plan purchased through the telecom providerUses data to send messages, also works with Wi-Fi
Works on any deviceOnly works between Apple devices


SMS messages on a green background
For Apple gadgets, SMS messages appear on a green background

SMS, or Short Message Service, is a messaging service used in mobile phones. SMS messaging is sometimes referred to as “text messaging” or simply “texting” since it is exclusively used for sending alpha-numeric messages, and in addition, some special characters. Messages via SMS are limited to 160 characters per message. Messages are routed to the target mobile phone. The networks of mobile telecom providers are equipped to specifically handle SMS messages. SMS texting is an integral part of digital mobile telephony. Text messaging forms a part of bundled plans, and are charged per message if the usage limit allowed by the plan has been exceeded.

iMessages on a blue background
For Apple gadgets, iMessages appear on a blue background

iMessage is a proprietary messaging service developed by Apple for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, as well as for the Mac. iMessage enables users to send text messages, photos, videos and documents using the internet as the channel, and lets users send messages via Wi-Fi or cellular internet data. This allows an alternative to SMS when sending messages on a mobile phone. Messages sent via iMessage are routed via recipient’s registered email address or mobile number. Only mobile phones that run on Apple’s iOS are able to send and receive iMessage content, but later on this was extended to include computers that run on MacOS. Apple’s default messaging app is called Messages. It can send and receive both SMS and iMessages.

SMS vs iMessage

What is the difference between SMS and iMessage? In Apple gadgets, messages via SMS appear with a green background while iMessages have a blue background. SMS is limited to 160 characters and is purely text whereas iMessage content can have longer messages as well as photos, videos and documents. One can use SMS with the text messaging plan purchased through the telecom provider. The use of iMessage, on the other hand, needs data to send messages, photos, videos and documents and also works over Wi-Fi. SMS works on any digital phone unlike iMessage, which is proprietary to Apple devices.

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