Android phones seem to support 2 kinds of SMS: Text SMS and Data SMS. I think I know what a text SMS is, but what is a Data SMS and how / for what is it used (btw as far as I can tell Data SMS are not MMS)?

I recognize that this might not be Android specific, but I encountered the term first on my Android handset, so here I go. If this is more general and better moved to a different forum feel free to suggest so...

  • I don't seem to find this on my android device. Can you tell the version of your android/model of the phone? Or include the screenshot if you can?
    – Irfan
    Dec 24, 2012 at 8:23

5 Answers 5


Data SMS messages are sent through the data network, over your 2G / 3G data connection, just like all other data such as internet traffic. Normally SMS messages have their own method of transport, the details of which you can check out on Wikipedia.

  • 1
    Thanks. Your answer gets me half way there, but I still don't understand what it is used for. If you can add an example of a real-world service/application that sends data SMS or a common use-case I'll tick your answer.
    – user4188
    May 11, 2011 at 1:02
  • @user4188 Data SMSes cost much less...
    – iOS
    Sep 29, 2012 at 19:49
  • Its more reliable, too..
    – iOS
    Sep 29, 2012 at 19:52

A perfect example for data SMS use is when your recipient must pay to receive your text message even though you may have unlimited texting. By using a data SMS service, all extra charges are avoided and the amount of data used by SMS messages is insignificant compared to even lite web page viewing.


I think Data SMS messages are sent not only through the data network (over your 2G / 3G data connection), but also through GSM as Text SMS. The PDU of a text message has a User Data Headers (UDH) that defines a specific port on a handset. Refer to this link: http://developers.esendex.com/Concepts-and-Patterns/Sending-SMS-to-a-Specific-Port


User named www.jensolsson.se is correct. OP is also correct it's not really a Android subject perse, it's more of a cellular technology subject. Since we are not sticking to Android is will share my experience with data sms in the Linux side of things. I use data sms for a custom IoT type of communication to do very low level control of the devices such as rebooting or restarting a misbehaving application. I use the mmcli tool to send and receive the data sms messages. The data value that I send is a bitmasked binary value (from memory a 64bit value) that represents the operational status of the device and its applications. A good place to start is looking at the mmcli man page. I learned of this capability while learning how to use mmcli to send and receive text messages using mmcli. My text messages were becoming giant JSON strings. Since I controlled both ends, I developed a custom protocol that only needs a single 64bit symbol with many values encoded in to it.



Data SMS is just like regular SMS. Contrary to what other answers to this question which implies the data smses dont use the 3g/4g data connection at all. You can actually disable both mobile data and wifi on your phone and you can still send and receive data sms.

Data SMS is a feature for app to app communication. Historically it was also used for example to change certain aspects of the phone. For example adding operator logo, ring tones etc.


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