Ignorance of the Difference Between SMS and MMS Could Cost You Thousands

Remember those data plans you didn’t pay attention to when you bought that new mobile phone? Well, here’s one reason you should have paid more attention, and another that could save you thousands of pounds.

Our blog is usually SMS marketing focused, but we stay hot on all things ‘text’ here at FireText and thought this could be a really useful tip. Recently, a story out of Airdrie, Scotland caught the attention of the press and Internet forums the world over. Story has it, the woman from Scotland racked up a £1,200 mobile phone bill in just four months. Was she calling long distance? No, she was sending emoticons.

So, how does this happen? Many phones are in question, including the fairly new Samsung Galaxy S4. This device, as well as older generation handsets, can’t send emojis without first converting them into picture messages, also known as MMS messages. These require the use of data and can cost a lot more than their text only counterpart, Short Message Service (SMS).

The ability to exchange rich content between phones was once a high-priced luxury. However, with the app market offering mobile users an endless array of free services including sending and receiving rich content, these overcharges on cell phone bills seem a little out of place.

Yet, the woman’s UK mobile phone network was quick to point the finger at manufacturers, claiming this was a problem with the device, and not a gimmick set up by the network provider.


Some apps are also taking the heat for similar fraudulent changes. Apps—like Facebook—regularly attempt to integrate the users personal contact list, which can result in MMS charges. People have been advised to change or disable this setting as a precaution.

Currently, there are no hard answers as to which mobile devices are affected by these blind conversions from SMS to MMS messaging. But there are a few things each mobile user can do to ensure they do not become a victim of extraneous changes.

First, look at your cell phone bill. According to communications watchdog Ofcom, 4% of people said they had received a high bill “caused by unexpected charges for emojis.” This number, however, only reflects people who regularly review their bill. By getting in the habit of reviewing your bill every month, should changes become suspect, you’re more likely to resolve the issue before it gets out of hand.

Finally, if data usage continues to be a problem for your handset, and you’re unable to upgrade or exchange the current device, consider paying for more data on a different service plan.

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