Email Vs SMS; Which One Should I use And When?

Today am going to compare two messaging technologies that we quite often use on a daily or weekly basis that is email and SMS or Short Message Service. Email or electronic mail is much older than SMS and its history goes way back to the early days of the internet in the 1980s. It was a much faster way through which organisations and individuals would exchange messages.

SMS on the other hand came with the intention of conquering cellular/GSM (Global System for Mobile networks) mobile networks. The creation of SMS was rather accidental! It was designed to be used in the signalling channels of the mobile networks, but after Telecoms discovered its potential, they decided to commercialize it and offered it as a service together with voice services.

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Okay that’s just about the history, now lets look at how, why and when you should use either technologies. First of all, both technologies do not require that the recipient be logged. When the sender sends a message, It’s stored at the SMS center (SMSC) in the telecom network or email server for the case of email. Messages are retrieved when recipient is ready to view them or when their phones are switched on. This is important for instance when you want to call the recipient and their phones are off, then you can easily send an SMS which will notify them of your intentions to urgently speak with them. SMS is limited to only 160 characters. Most of us including myself would have wished for more characters like as it is with email, but there is something great about there limited characters. One of the advantages is that the sender will be as precise and straight to the point as possible saving the recipient lots of time in reading a message that would otherwise have had irrelevant details.

This is the secret with SMS success and it made popular social micro-blogging networks like twitter to adapt the same philosophy. However, sometimes you might actually have lots of relevant information to convey that can’t fit in just 160 characters. It could be a sales report, brochure, newsletter, product datasheet. This is where email comes in since it even supports images, flash animation, video that text based SMS does not. SMS is not free on most mobile networks while email is totally free unless you are subscribed to some sort of premium service or if you’re accessing email from your phone in which case you have to pay for the mobile data services to your carrier. So if It’s about cost and you choosing between SMS and email, then email takes it all. However, you have to consider the recipient too. Does your recipient have constant access to internet, if yes how often do they check mail? If your recipient rarely checks mail yet your message is urgent, then you might want to consider using SMS since most people move with their mobile phones and an SMS notification just pops up on their screen. So I prefer SMS to email for very urgent messages because am not sure of my recipient’s email etiquette.

Now supposing you have an urgent report to send for instance which of course can’t be sent via SMS. Then in this case, you could leverage the power of both technologies. You could send the urgent report by email to the recipient and immediately follow it up with an SMS indicating the subject title and the fact that the report has been sent to their email address. Simple, right? Supposing the recipient is an international one, should you send SMS or email? In this case I would prefer email to SMS. Not only because email is free or cheap, but also because email is much more reliable than SMS when it comes to international messaging. Email is based on the global world wide web, so location does not matter while with SMS, your local mobile carrier has to work out various international interconnections with other mobile carriers to deliver your message. In the end, there’re chances that your message will be dropped along the way yet you’ve paid heavily for it.

SMS is also a predominantly offline technology, meaning you don’t need internet to send or receive an SMS unlike email. So SMS can come in very handy in cases where you need to get an offline activity or individual online. We live most of our lives offline. For example, supposing you want to chat with a friend on Yahoo messenger or Facebook, but they are offline or not logged in at the time you want to chat. Then you could simply send them an SMS telling them to log on so you can chat, or you can schedule a chat session with them through SMS.  In conclusion, In the battle of Email Vs SMS, you will realize that we need both email and SMS since they compliment each other.

Image: Sportsbycolin

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