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?
- MLB.com At Bat and NHL now allow users to personalize Home Screen icons
- Apple pulls over-the-air iOS 10.3 update for iPhone 5, 5c; iOS 10.3.2 seems to end support for them
- Supplier Responsibility Report, recent hires hint at Project Titan research
- Apple now rejecting apps with references to price in their name
- Apple Pay now live in Taiwan
- Apple releases iOS 10.3.2 beta to developers
- Rumor: Apple may add cellular capability to next Apple Watch, create USB-C/Lightning hybrid
- Urbanears launches new lineup of Wi-Fi Connected Speakers
- Apple adds ability for developers respond to apps reviews, tweaks in-app rating prompt rules
- Report: 10.5” iPad Pro could still arrive this spring
- AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon Headphones
- ExoLens PRO with Optics by ZEISS Wide-Angle Lens Kit
- Blue Sadie Headphones
- Circle with Disney Parental Control and Internet Filtering System
- Pioneer Rayz Plus Lightning Connector Earphones
- BEEM United BeMe D200 Lightning Connector Earphones
- Jam Audio JAM Xterior Max Rugged Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
- HiFiMAN Edition S Headphones
- Divoom Timebox Mini Bluetooth Speaker
- iClever BoostSound BTS-09 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