Message vs. Text

I’ve had a couple of questions this week about the differences between a message and a text on a smartphone.

It can seem confusing because both are messages. The term we’ll use to talk about texts is ‘SMS text message.’  That’s what is commonly referred to as a text. SMS stands for ‘short message service’ and can be sent from most cell phones whether they’re a smartphone or not. These messages are sent using your 3G or 4G phone connection and come out of your data plan. Messages longer than 160 characters will be split into two parts. Text message are sent to phone numbers.


Other types of messages can be sent using apps like Facebook Messenger or Google Hangouts. You can send these messages using your data plan or by logging your phone on to WiFi. If you’re using a messaging app like Facebook Messenger, you can message other people who have FB open in a browser on their PC. No cell phone is needed.

However, if you’re using a messaging app to contact someone, they need to have that messaging app installed on their phone (or in the case of Facebook Messenger, open on their computer).

Here’s an example of what the icon for sending an SMS text looks like on Android.


Here’s the icon for Facebook Messenger.


Typically Messaging apps allow you to do a lot more than send a text. You can send longer messages, have video chats, make voice calls via wi-fi and send full-sized images. In the case of Facebook Messenger, you can even attach documents.  These apps use a lot more data than an SMS text message and you’ll need a smartphone to use a messaging app.

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