iMessage vs SMS/MMS messaging and text + data plans
Ask iLounge offers readers the opportunity to get answers to their iPod-, iPhone-, iPad-, iTunes-, or Apple TV-related questions from a member of the iLounge editorial team. We'll answer several questions here each week, and of course, you can always get help with more immediate concerns from the iLounge Discussion Forums. Submit your questions for consideration using our Ask iLounge Submit Form. We reserve the right to edit questions for grammar, spelling, and length.
Q: My wife and I have new iPhone 5’s on Verizon with unlimited SMS/MMS but are on a metered, shared data plan. So for us it’s most economical to turn iMessage off and just use SMS/MMS. However, our friends with iPhones mostly are on older, unlimited data/metered messaging plans, so it’s more considerate for us to use iMessage with them than SMS/MMS. The aggravation is remembering to change the setting depending on who we’re messaging. Plus it doesn’t help our friends if we’ve turned iMessage off for ourselves and they message us, because then we force them to pay for SMS, by accident. Is there a contact-dependent switcher app out there or some other slicker solution? With the new crop of plans combining unlimited talk + text with metered data the current implementation of iMessage seems like a no-win situation.
A: Unfortunately, there isn’t really any way to configure the iPhone to only use iMessage when sending to specific contacts, as this is a decision that iOS makes on its own based primarily on whether the phone number that you are sending to is registered with Apple’s iMessage network.
iMessage uses a minuscule amount of data compared to what a typical data plan offers, however, so you very likely don’t need to worry too much about using iMessage unless you have an extremely limited data plan or you regularly send photos and videos via the Messages app. Unlike SMS/MMS messaging, however, iMessage also works over Wi-Fi, so whenever you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network you’re not using any cellular data at all.
To put this into perspective, a typical single iMessage will usually use about 1-2 kilobytes, or about 1000-2000 bytes of data, depending on how much text you’re sending. By comparison, the smallest shared data plan available on Verizon right now is 1 GB per month, which translates to roughly one billion bytes of information. This would allow you to send an impossible number of iMessages per month—between 500,000 and 1,000,000—before you would even get close to your data plan. Even if you’re still on one of the older 150MB or 200MB data plans, this still equates to well over 100,000 iMessages—that’s over two iMessages per minute, every minute of every day for an entire month. A more typical text messaging user may send about 1,000 texts per month, which would only eat up about 1-2MB of your data plan.
That said, your data usage may be of some concern if you send a lot of photos or videos through iMessage. One advantage of iMessage over MMS is that photos are sent in their full resolution, meaning a typical iPhone photo will consume about 2-3 MB of data. Videos will be compressed somewhat, and will consume about 6 MB of data per minute of video, but are still presented in a resolution far superior to the 160x120 typically used by MMS. These numbers can obviously add up if you regularly do this using a cellular data connection, but remember that iMessages also uses Wi-Fi whenever available, which will not count against your Verizon data plan allotment at all.
- Will removing a credit card from Safari also remove it from Apple Pay?
- Can I mute Handoff calls coming into my Mac from my iPhone?
- How do I keep my iPhone calls from ringing on my Mac?
- Why doesn’t Traffic show up on my Today Notifications Screen?
- Why doesn’t my iPhone reconnect to Wi-Fi after I turn it on?
- Why can’t I see the iPad-style landscape view on my iPhone 6 Plus?
- Apple releases sixth beta of iOS 10.2 to developers
- Developers pushing back against abusers of Apple’s App Store refund policy
- Apple lobbies for shared data, more public road access to test autonomous driving systems
- Apple Store app update allows purchases from Apple Watch
- Apple releases fifth beta of iOS 10.2 to developers
- Apple reveals cause of unexpected iPhone 6s shutdowns
- Report: 99 percent of fake Apple chargers found to be unsafe
- Apple offering battery replacements for iPhone 6s models with ‘unexpected shutdown issues’ (Updated)
- Report: Fitbit to acquire Pebble
- Apple releases statement on iCloud Calendar spam
- iHome iZBT10 Zenergy Bedside Sleep Therapy Speaker
- Twelve South HiRise Duet for Apple Watch and iPhone
- IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitor
- JBL Under Armour Sport Wireless Heart Rate Headphones
- Edifier e235 Luna E Speaker System
- Clamcase ClamCase+ for 9.7” iPad Pro
- Scosche BoomBottle H2O+ Waterproof Wireless Speaker
- Thermos Connected Hydration Bottle with Smart Lid
- Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones
- Creative iRoar Go Portable Bluetooth Speaker
- Top Five: The Best Products for Building a Smart Home with HomeKit
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of watchOS 3
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of tvOS 10
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 10
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Photos gets Advanced Computer Vision
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Music app delivers ‘clarity and simplicity’
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Maps gets a major redesign
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 shakes up the user experience
- Inside the betas: watchOS 3 promises a real speed boost
- Inside the betas: A sneak peek at what’s new in tvOS 10