Texting vs Messaging - What's the difference?

Texting vs Messaging

Digital Basics

Both texting and instant messaging are super common ways of communicating using mobile devices these days, so much so that many people now use the terms texting and messaging interchangeably. However, some key distinctions exist between the two which are worth knowing. In this article, we're going to break down the differences between instant messaging and texting so you can choose which one is right for you - or how to use both.

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 and are becoming increasingly interchangeable with the capacity to add video, use images and gifs.

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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 don't require a 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. Most 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 but not an internet connection, 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 an iPhone can easily text someone with a Google phone. 

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. Most plans have some international capacity built into them these days, but not all. So for international messaging, an instant messenger service is the way to go.


Instant messages can be sent from a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Unfortunately, regular mobile phones (ie not smartphones) 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.