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SMS vs. Push Notification: Choosing the Right Mobile Messaging Strategy

Published: January, 2024
Last updated: : January, 2024
Both push notifications and SMS are effective mediums to reach your audience. However, based on what you want to achieve, it’s important to choose the right mobile messaging strategy. If you compare SMS vs. push notifications, you’ll see that SMS allows you to reach a wider audience, while pushes enable you to send real-time updates and engage users with your app.Curious to know which medium is best for your marketing efforts? Then dive into our article to learn the difference between push notification and SMS, as well as the pros and cons of each. It will help you make an informed decision and create an effective strategy that aligns with your business goals.

What is a push notification?

A push notification is a short-lived message that is sent to a user's device from an app or website. It is bound to inform a person about special offers, important updates, reminders, or new content available. Push notifications have proven to be an effective marketing tool since users opt in to receive push notifications. In addition, app users can see the message on the lock screen without opening an application.A push notification is limited to 178 characters on iOS devices and 240 characters on Android devices. The sender can also use pictures in those messages and include action buttons, which allow the user to take specific actions without opening an app.To learn more about push messages, check out our all-encompassing guide to push notifications

What is an SMS?

Short Message Service, commonly known as SMS, is a mobile messaging service that allows users to send text messages from one device to another without using the Internet. The sender usually needs a PC or mobile device connected to a cellular network to send an SMS. Usually, an SMS is a short message. It has a maximum length of 160 characters and does not support images or videos. Unlike push notifications, the sender rarely asks for permission to send SMS messages.

The difference between SMS and push notifications 

When choosing between push notifications vs. SMS, you need to know which medium best suits your interests. For your convenience, we’ve created a comparison chart with the key differences between SMS and push messages.

When is it better to use push notifications instead of SMS

Despite the high SMS open rate, push messages are better to use in many situations. As a rule, marketers utilize pushes for the following purposes:
  • Special offers and limited-time deals
  • Real-time updates and alerts
  • New releases and features 
  • Personalized recommendations
  • Reminders
  • Surveys
Pro tip:If you want to set up a push notification campaign quickly and easily, use Nashpush. It’s a user-friendly interface for web and mobile push alerts that allows users to create a push campaign from scratch in 15 minutes.

Special offers and limited-time deals

To receive push notifications, users must first download your app and allow it to send messages. This means that they are interested in receiving information about the latest deals, including exclusive and time-limited offers. As such, push notifications are ideal for discount-related messages, as your potential customers are more likely to react to them. 

Real-time updates and alerts

If you compare push vs. SMS in this category, the latter will be more effective because it doesn’t require an Internet connection. However, push alerts still can be used for real-time updates related to your trip, transaction, or order. For example, you can notify your customers about an ATM withdrawal, the status of their delivery, a flight delay, or a change of departure point.

New releases and features

Unlike SMS, push alerts are great for informing users about new content available, product releases, and app features. You can also add action buttons to make it easy for customers to use these new features right away.

Personalized recommendations

Use app data to create personalized recommendations for your customers. Offer products or services that they may be interested in based on their past behavior or preferences. Or recommend content from your blog, newsletter, or social media accounts that match the user's interests.


Send timely reminders to encourage users to renew a subscription, finish a purchase, pick up their order, or complete a task. This will help increase engagement with your app and improve customer satisfaction. 


Fancy making data-driven decisions to improve app engagement and boost sales? Then send a push notification to ask your customers to complete the survey. However, in order for people to give you their time and feedback, you have to give them something in return. For example, a discount code or a free sample with the next purchase.

Don’t use pushes for:

  • Important reference information. It will disappear soon, leaving a user confused and frustrated if they can't find the information again.
  • Re-engaging users without providing any value. Randomly reminding users to use your app can be annoying. Instead, provide some value to incentivize users to interact with your app.
  • Long and complex messages. If you have a lot to say, send an email. For push notifications, craft a short, concise message that gets straight to the point. 

When to choose SMS instead of push notifications

With a 98% open rate, SMS is great for urgent, time-sensitive, or transactional messages. You know, the kind of messages that can’t be missed due to lack of Internet connection or poor WiFi. 

Urgent messages 

If a storm is approaching or there are suspiciously large transactions going through the account, people must be notified immediately. The best way to do it is by SMS. Only 2% of people do not open them. 90% of the rest will read SMS in just 3 minutes.

Time-sensitive information

If your client's time is at stake, use SMS. Whether their flight is delayed, an event is canceled, or an appointment time has changed, SMS is a reliable means of communication. With its help, you can send a timely notification about time-related changes.

Transactional alerts

In this category, you can inform customers of everything related to transactions. These include purchase confirmations, payment receipts, account balance updates, and fraud alerts. Delivery-related messages and package tracking notices are also important transactional alerts that can be sent via SMS.

Don’t use SMS for:

  • Long messages. First, the number of words is limited. Second, long messages are difficult to read on a small mobile screen.
  • Reference information. SMS is not suitable for providing detailed reference information, as it does not support large texts. 

Bottom line

If your online business doesn’t take advantage of push notifications, you’re missing out. Push alerts are one of the most powerful marketing tools that help to keep customers up-to-date with the latest offers, promotions, and releases.