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About Mobile Messaging

This Mobilook guide helps cell phone users understand mobile messaging. It explains the different types of mobile messaging and what you need to use it.

  1. Overview
  2. Text Messaging (SMS)
  3. Multimedia Messaging (MMS)
  4. Enhanced Messaging (EMS)
  5. Instant Messaging (Chat)
  6. Services and Equipment You Need
  7. Mobile Messaging Calling Plans
  8. Text Messaging Language

1. Overview

Mobile messaging is an easy way to send brief information to another mobile phone. Neither the sender nor receiver have to speak. The receiver's phone does not have to be turned on. It works when the receiver's phone is busy. It's inexpensive.

Mobile messages are a permanent record, which is useful for information such as names, numbers, addresses, dates, appointments and details.

If your phone is turned off, you are outside a digital coverage area or your phone's memory is full, your incoming messages will be stored and resent periodically by the provider's network usually for 72 hours, after which time they will be deleted on the network server.

Mobile messaging is available on most digital wireless networks and devices. You need to subscribe to messaging on your calling plan and have a compatible handset.

2. Text Messaging (SMS)

Short Messaging Service (SMS), also known as text messaging, is a mobile telecommunications standard for sending and receiving up to 160 characters between mobile phones, devices, PDAs and computers.

SMS has its own lexicon of abbreviations and acronyms for making messages smaller and easier to type. See Text Messaging Acronyms and Abbreviations.

Use text messaging to participate in interactive TV and radio voting shows, contests, promotions and polls. Use text messaging to get message alerts of timely information about news, weather, sports, investment and more.

Most wireless service providers support text messaging. Most handsets are equipped for SMS. SMS destination addresses can be a mobile phone number or regular Internet e-mail address.

Most wireless carriers have a message center phone number for dialing into for sending and receiving messages. Most wireless carrier also have a messaging website for sending a text message to a mobile phone.

3. Multimedia Messaging (MMS)

Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), known as picture messaging, extends text messaging (SMS) to include longer text, formatted text, graphics, photos, audio clips, video clips, or combination of the above, within certain size limits. MMS is used to download ringtones and wall-papers to phones from the Web.

When you receive a picture message you can save and use the picture on your handset or send it to someone else.

Mobile phones that do not support MMS treat an MMS message as an SMS text message and display only the text.

4. Enhanced Messaging (EMS)

Enhanced Messaging Service (EMS), also known as picture messaging, is an intermediate technology between text messaging (SMS) and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS).

EMS has more capabilities than the SMS, but fewer than MMS. Most major handset manufacturers make phones that are EMS compatible. Nokia has a similar proprietary standard called "Smart Messaging."

5. Instant Messaging (Chat)

Instant messaging (IM), also known as "chat," is a real-time messaging system that sends your message immediately to an address that is online at that time.

Instant messaging subscribers can use services from Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ Wireless (Chat) to interact with millions of instant messaging (IRC Internet Relay Chat)) users worldwide.

There are many chat rooms available for discussing a wide range of topics, all in real-time

Instant messaging is usually charged at regular text messaging rates.

6. Services and Equipment You Need

To use mobile messaging, you need the following equipment and services:

  • Your wireless service provider must provide the type of messaging you want to use: SMS (text), MMS (multimedia) or EMS (enhanced). They all require digital wireless service.
  • You need a mobile handset that is compatible with the type of messaging you want to use. Check which handsets are available from services providers or buy a handset that is compatible.
  • You don't need a separate account or address. Your mobile phone number is your messaging address. But you do need a subscription to a voice calling plan.
  • You need to be in a digital coverage area to send or receive a message.

For a list of e-mail and messaging service providers, see our Mobile E-mail and Messaging: E-mail and Instant Messaging Services.

7. Mobile Messaging Calling Plans

Mobile messaging is charged per message sent. Most messaging plans offer received text messages for free. The basic text message size is limited (to 160 characters), which makes the service very inexpensive.

Most data (messaging) calling plans offer a fixed number of messages for a monthly fee. Additional messages sent are charged per message.

Data transmission charges per megabyte apply to picture messages (MMS, EMS) sent and those received while roaming.

In addition to paying the data fees for sending a message, you may also pay for long distance and roaming charges, if applicable.

Many data plans are combined with a voice calling plan. Be sure to get the voice minutes and message quantity limits that you need and are within your budget.

8. Text Messaging Language

Text and instant messaging (IM, chat) have a language (lexicon of abbreviations and acronyms) all their own. Text messages have to be short to fit within 160 characters. Instant messages have to be quick to keep up with the rapid conversation.

Check out these sources of smileys (smilies), emoticons and acronyms to bring your messaging up to speed and be IM-friendly:

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