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Business Messaging: Comparing SMS and WhatsApp

In today’s rapidly evolving digital era, businesses have a plethora of messaging platforms at their disposal for interacting with customers. Two of the most widely used options are SMS and WhatsApp. It is imperative for businesses to comprehend the strengths and weaknesses of each platform in order to make an informed choice that aligns with their requirements. In this article, we will delve into the distinctions between SMS and WhatsApp, aiding businesses in determining the most appropriate platform. So, let’s delve into the realm of SMS vs WhatsApp!

SMS vs WhatsApp for Business: A Synopsis

Short Message Service (SMS) is a text messaging service enabling users to send and receive concise text messages on their mobile devices. SMS functionality is typically accessible on both Android and iOS devices.

Using SMS doesn’t necessitate any specific prerequisites or conditions, although users must have a mobile phone with an active phone number and service plan to send and receive messages.

SMS made its debut in the 1980s and has since been widely adopted, becoming a favored form of text messaging for mobile phone users worldwide. However, it has been complemented or supplanted by instant messaging apps like WhatsApp.

WhatsApp is a messaging application enabling users to exchange text messages, voice messages, conduct voice and video calls, share various media and documents, and much more. It was first introduced in 2009 and has subsequently emerged as one of the most extensively used messaging apps globally, boasting over 2.24 billion active users as of 2023.

The visual below provides a comparative snapshot of WhatsApp and SMS. The former has surged in popularity over the past decade, while the latter has been in widespread use for over two decades.

WhatsApp vs SMS: Determining the Best for Business

WhatsApp is accessible in most countries worldwide, with only a few exceptions. To utilize WhatsApp, users require a mobile phone with a valid phone number and an active internet connection.

While the WhatsApp App is well-suited for personal communication, there are specialized products tailored for businesses. WhatsApp Business App is a no-cost, standalone application designed for small businesses to directly engage with customers through the app.

In contrast, WhatsApp API is a tool intended for larger enterprises to seamlessly incorporate WhatsApp messaging into their existing software. Messaging via SMS and WhatsApp API shares certain similarities but also exhibits noteworthy distinctions, which we will delve into in the following section.

SMS vs WhatsApp for Business: Primary Variances

We’ve previously outlined the distinctions between instant messaging and traditional messaging channels. In this section, we’ll juxtapose SMS and WhatsApp for business use, specifically focusing on initiating or managing a substantial volume of conversations. Consequently, we’ll be specifically referring to WhatsApp API.

SMS vs WhatsApp: Interaction

Due to its conversational nature, WhatsApp typically engenders more robust customer engagement compared to SMS. While SMS messaging frequently follows a one-way trajectory with limited interaction, WhatsApp’s conversational framework facilitates more informal and expedited exchanges.

This yields two significant advantages. Firstly, WhatsApp’s interactive approach fosters trust and rapport between the customer and the business, leading to heightened customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The illustration below illustrates the disparities between WhatsApp and SMS in terms of engagement. Initially, SMS constitutes one-way communication, whereas WhatsApp embodies a conversational mode of messaging.

WhatsApp vs SMS: Engagement

Secondly, since both parties spend less time waiting for responses, conversation resolution times are shorter. As a result, agents can swiftly conclude conversations, thereby enhancing their efficiency.

Customers also stand to gain from this, as prolonged wait times for responses are generally viewed unfavorably. While engagement is crucial, the chosen messaging platform should feature tools that streamline customer communication.

SMS vs WhatsApp: Messaging Capabilities

While SMS messages are confined to text, WhatsApp encompasses the capacity for multimedia messages, encompassing images, videos, audio, and files. This diversity adds flexibility to the modes through which businesses and customers communicate.

This proves beneficial for bulk messaging, as businesses can disseminate catalogs or promotional videos to segmented audiences through WhatsApp, for instance. Consequently, WhatsApp broadcasts boast higher engagement rates relative to SMS broadcasts.

Certain customers fall prey to scams perpetrated by individuals posing as businesses. While combating this is more challenging for SMS users, WhatsApp API users can assert authenticity by obtaining the WhatsApp green checkmark, provided they meet the stipulated criteria.

Through WhatsApp API, businesses can also configure interactive responses to customer-initiated messages and template messages to streamline customer communication, thus saving agents valuable time.

This visual representation underscores a WhatsApp-SMS comparison in terms of messaging capabilities. One of the principal distinctions between SMS and WhatsApp messaging lies in the multifaceted features that WhatsApp offers.

WhatsApp vs SMS: Messaging Features

Discerning whether SMS recipients have perused messages remains impossible. WhatsApp, conversely, furnishes receipts confirming message reception and reading, equipping agents with insights to determine whether re-engagement is warranted or if a passive stance is more apt.

From a security standpoint, WhatsApp incorporates end-to-end encryption, signifying that messages undergo encryption prior to transmission and can only be deciphered by the intended recipient. Conversely, SMS messages lack encryption, thereby rendering them susceptible to interception and scrutiny by anyone with network access.

Within the realm of business messaging, stringent regulations exist to shield users from unwanted messages. Hence, it is essential to select a messaging channel that enforces reasonable yet effective messaging rules.

SMS vs WhatsApp: Constraints

Initially, SMS imposes a 160-character limit on messages, a figure that pales in comparison to WhatsApp’s 65,536-character allowance.

Additionally, the use of even a single emoji can truncate the character limit of a standard SMS from 160 to 70. SMS surpassing this limit are segmented into separate messages, incurring supplementary costs.

Unlike WhatsApp, SMS lacks support for images or any form of rich content. To achieve this, MMS must be employed, entailing additional expenses. The constraints vary depending on the specific SMS number in question, leaving no definitive victor for businesses.

SMS notifications may also be subject to carrier filtering, which can preclude their delivery to the intended recipient. Determining whether an SMS notification has undergone filtration can often be a challenge.

The diagram presented illustrates the disparities between WhatsApp and SMS in terms of limitations. In comparison to SMS, WhatsApp proves significantly less restrictive and attains superior deliverability rates.

WhatsApp vs SMS: Constraints

Cross-border constraints may impede the delivery of SMS notifications to international customers. Additionally, short code numbers solely facilitate local notification delivery.

Alphanumeric IDs are incapable of receiving customer responses, and long codes are restricted from sending marketing SMS in certain jurisdictions. None of these limitations apply to WhatsApp, which additionally boasts a near-perfect deliverability rate.

In fact, WhatsApp messages reliably reach recipients provided businesses adhere to WhatsApp Business and Commerce policies.

Lastly, WhatsApp opt-ins offer a more convenient approach relative to SMS opt-ins, as they don’t impose costs on customers and can be gathered from various platforms. SMS opt-ins necessitate customers to dispatch a text message featuring a designated keyword or code, incurring costs for the customer.

We’ve made repeated allusions to costs, perhaps prompting the question: Is WhatsApp messaging more costly than SMS? This query will be addressed in the ensuing section.

WhatsApp vs SMS: Pricing

Broadly speaking, SMS tends to be more costly than WhatsApp when it comes to pricing.

To commence operations, businesses must secure a number from an SMS provider. Specific number types may not entail setup or monthly fees.

Regrettably, this does not extend to short codes, a preferred option for many businesses. Furthermore, SMS providers impose charges per individual SMS or bundles of messages. These fees tend to escalate for SMS numbers boasting high deliverability rates.

Now, what about WhatsApp Business API? Access to it entails three distinct costs:

  • WhatsApp API access
  • Messaging inbox costs
  • WhatsApp conversation charges

For WhatsApp API access, businesses must elect between two hosting alternatives: WhatsApp On-premises API or WhatsApp Cloud API. The former is exclusively available via WhatsApp partners, frequently entailing setup fees, hosting fees, and per-message markups.

Conversely, WhatsApp Cloud API can be directly acquired through Meta or via select WhatsApp partners like Leadshouse. It represents the preferred choice for businesses seeking cost-effective access to WhatsApp API and swifter updates pertaining to their WhatsApp Business Accounts.

This diagram illustrates the disparities between SMS and WhatsApp in terms of pricing. In a WhatsApp vs SMS comparison, WhatsApp typically proves more economical, particularly with the assistance of a reputable BSP.

WhatsApp vs SMS: Pricing

Additionally, WhatsApp charges businesses per 24-hour conversation, with distinct rates for each of its four conversation categories. On a positive note, each WhatsApp Business Account receives 1,000 free service or user-initiated conversations per month.

Finally, since WhatsApp API lacks a front-end interface, a messaging inbox is essential for receiving and responding to customer messages. For businesses seeking a WhatsApp partner that furnishes a feature-rich messaging platform, consider Leadshouse.

We’ve compared SMS and WhatsApp in relation to engagement, messaging features, limitations, and pricing. Yet, which messaging channel is optimal for each specific business application?

Comparing WhatsApp and SMS for Notifications, Sales, Support, and Marketing

Traditionally, SMS has been a go-to choice for notifications and marketing, while WhatsApp has gradually evolved into a robust contender for various use cases, especially in regions where it enjoys popularity. In this section, we’ll dissect the utility of both platforms for notifications, sales, support, and marketing.


WhatsApp is generally regarded as superior to SMS for sending notifications, particularly one-time passwords (OTPs). WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption ensures the security and privacy of messages, making them impervious to interception. Its efficient and reliable message delivery further bolsters its position.

SMS vs WhatsApp: Benefits of using WhatsApp for notifications

On the other hand, SMS is susceptible to interception and can be exploited in SMS phishing attacks, compromising sensitive information.


SMS is less ideal for sales due to its impersonal nature and limitations in facilitating dynamic customer interactions. The cost of exchanging SMS messages in a back-and-forth manner can also be prohibitive.

WhatsApp, in contrast, offers numerous advantages for both inbound and outbound sales. It supports interactive automated messages, enabling businesses to engage customers with options like confirming a delivery or rescheduling it. The 24-hour messaging window allows agents to chat with customers without incurring extra costs, setting it apart from SMS.

SMS vs WhatsApp: Benefits of using WhatsApp for sales

WhatsApp’s rich media features make it a superior choice for showcasing products and services, enhancing engagement and interaction, and ultimately boosting conversion rates.


SMS is not an ideal channel for customer support due to its slower pace and cost-per-message model. In contrast, WhatsApp excels in providing real-time, two-way communication between customers and support agents. Its 24-hour customer service window allows for uninterrupted assistance without incurring substantial costs.

SMS vs WhatsApp: Why use WhatsApp for customer support

WhatsApp’s support for sending images and videos enhances the accuracy and effectiveness of support interactions, resulting in better customer experiences.


When it comes to marketing, WhatsApp outshines SMS in several ways. WhatsApp broadcasts support rich media content like images, videos, and audio messages, making marketing messages more engaging and interactive compared to text-only SMS.

SMS vs WhatsApp: Benefits of using WhatsApp for marketing and remarketing

WhatsApp also offers better personalization and targeting options, allowing businesses to send messages to specific audiences segmented by various criteria.

WhatsApp’s conversation-based pricing model enables cost-effective lead generation, as businesses can engage with interested customers without incurring charges for every outbound message. It also provides tools for advertising on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, driving conversations to WhatsApp.

In summary, while SMS remains in use for many businesses, WhatsApp is the superior choice in regions where it is popular. It excels in pricing, engagement, and messaging features, while imposing fewer restrictions. WhatsApp’s conversational nature makes it suitable not only for marketing and notifications but also for sales and support. Businesses can integrate it into their customer communication channels for a more effective and efficient approach.

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