What is MMS, SMS, and EMS?

July 19, 2009 / Updated: July 19, 2009 / Lena Shore

If you have a mobile device, I’m betting you use MMS, SMS, or EMS – although, you just may not realize it.cellphone

First there was SMS. SMS means “Short Message Service”. This is a communication service standardized by the GSM (Global System for Mobile communications). Back in the early 1980s, someone decided it would be really cool to be able to send a message using the existing mobile phone technology. Due to limitations the messages had to be limited in size. You could a message up to 160 characters (including spaces) on your mobile phone and send it to a buddy’s mobile phone. Longer messages get split. There have been lots of versions of SMS for different devices and networks, but they all mean one  thing “texting”.

After SMS there was EMS (Enhanced Messaging Service), and enhanced version of SMS. It allows you to add simple text modifications (like bold or italic) and limited photos or animations. If you send something today and the phone doesn’t support EMS, it will probably just display it as MMS (see next paragraph). Due to MMS being superior, EMS is probably going the way of the dinosaur.

Later as our phones became more intelligent with cameras, audio, and storing different kinds of media, we wanted to send those too! So, MMS came to be. MMS means “Multimedia Messaging Service”. This allows you to send a photo with your text message, audio, video, or rich text. So, if you are sending photos to a friend or downloading a new ringtone, you are using MMS. Didn’t know you were so technically savvy, did you?

If you really want to know the history and technical specs to MMS,  SMS, EMS, and would like to geek out a bit, you may want to check out Wikipedia’s articles on them:

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Lena Shore

Lena is a full-time freelancer and nerd that specializes in web development, graphic design, and illustration. She enjoys building things, learning new things, pursuing creative endeavors, and giving free advice.

1 Comment

  1. Richard Robertson on July 19, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Nice article.

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