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What Is the Difference Between Instant Messaging and Texting?

Dec 14, 2021

Both texting and instant messaging have exploded in popularity over the last decade. As a result, many people now use the terms “text messaging” and “instant messaging” interchangeably, referring to both as “messaging.” However, some key distinctions exist between the two. 

In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about the differences between instant messaging and texting.

What Is Texting?

Texting, or text messaging, is the process of sending short electronic messages between two or more mobile devices. Texting requires a cellular network to send messages.

Virtually every cell phone, regardless of whether it’s a smartphone, is capable of sending and receiving text messages. More than 5 billion people own mobile devices, and over half of those are smartphones. In addition, 88% of people use their phones primarily for texting, and approximately 41 million messages are sent out every minute. 

Both SMS (Short Messaging Service) and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) text messages fall under the texting umbrella. However, SMS and MMS do have a few slight differences. 

Most SMS messaging platforms have a limit of 160 characters of text per message. In contrast, MMS messages enable you to add images, video and other types of content to a text message.

Break through the 160 character limit! Send longer text messages with Textedly.

What Is Instant Messaging? 

Instant messengers allow you to send real-time messages through a software application. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat and iMessage are examples of instant messaging apps that have steadily gained popularity over the years. 

Instant messaging applications are often referred to as “Over the Top” (OTT) applications because they do not require a cellular network connection. However, to send and receive OTT messages, you need a device that connects to the internet, such as a smartphone, laptop, desktop or tablet. 

Some instant messaging applications also allow users to make video and voice calls and share files.

Is Messaging the Same As Texting?

Long story short, these two messaging options are not the same. On a basic level, texting requires a cellular network, while instant messaging requires only an internet connection. Below, we’ll do a deeper dive into the major differences.

What Is the Difference Between Instant Messaging and Texting? 

Application/Cellular Carrier

Instant messaging requires the sender and recipient to use the same application. For example, if you’re using WhatsApp, you cannot send messages to someone using Facebook Messenger. 

Texting enables you to send or receive messages using any cell phone, no matter the cellular carrier. For example, someone with a T-Mobile phone can easily text someone with a Verizon plan. 

International Capabilities 

Instant messaging allows anyone with an internet connection to communicate with people worldwide.

With texting, your international carrier plan will determine if you’re able to send messages to people in other countries – and how much it will cost. Of course, it’s always possible, but cellular companies control the cost and message limits.


Instant messages can be sent from a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Unfortunately, regular cell phones without an internet connection can’t support instant messaging. 

Texting is native to each mobile device, so you only need a cell phone to send text messages.

Should You Use Texting or Messaging for Your Business? 

Texting and messaging are both invaluable tools for businesses that want a fast, easy, and cost-effective way to communicate with customers. But which one is better for marketing purposes?


  • Texting allows you to reach customers faster than an email or phone call.
  • Customers don’t need to download an additional application to text.
  • 94% of U.S. adults own a mobile phone, so you’re guaranteed to reach a wider audience through text messaging than nearly any other marketing channel. 
  • Businesses can achieve an 11%-30% increase in customer engagement with SMS marketing, as 60% of customers read texts within five minutes of receiving them. 
  • Every modern mobile network and device supports SMS messaging. All you need to start texting your customers is their phone number. 

Instant Messaging 

  • Enables you to send content that contains text, photos and videos.
  • Requires that both the sender and the receiver share the same messaging app to communicate. However, the average OTT app campaign loses 77% of its users in the first three days after installation.
  • Requires an internet connection, so customers without one won’t receive your messages promptly.

Start Texting Customers Today with Textedly

If you’re looking for an effective way to reach your customers where they are, texting is the perfect solution. 

Are you interested in discovering more ways that texting can benefit your business? Textedly provides simple, affordable SMS solutions that are easy to set up, so you can start texting your customers immediately. 

Get started with Textedly’s free trial (no credit card required) to kickstart your SMS marketing campaign.