SMS vs WhatsApp – Striking the Right Balance for Customer Communications

Nitin Chowdhary, 1 month ago, 5 min read

WhatsApp, after its launch in 2009, has grown rapidly across the world. It’s grown at an average pace of 30.5% annually in India over the last 5 years. Despite this rapid rise of WhatsApp, SMS continues to be the largest channel for customer communications in India. This article seeks to re-iterate the reasons to strike a balance between SMS and WhatsApp for enterprise customer communications.


WhatsApp, first introduced in 2009, is now available in 60 languages across 180+ countries. It has over 2 billion users who spend roughly 195 minutes per week on the platform. To use this application, a user requires a basic smartphone.

SMS was first introduced in the early 1990s. It was designed to run on basic feature phones. As a result, with 5.1 billion users, it reaches almost 67% of the global population. While facing competition from the feature-rich WhatsApp and other similar messaging apps, SMS remains a requisite channel for business communication, especially to ensure inclusivity.

Times Mobile offers both WhatsApp for Business (WABA) and SMS platforms and accompanying APIs to enterprises to integrate these channels into their key business applications and processes.


SMS is limited to 160 characters per message, whereas WhatsApp can deliver up to 4096 characters per message. SMS can only deliver text messages (although most SMS reading apps today recognize simple features such as a clickable URL), whereas a WhatsApp message can contain images, videos, carousels and interactive buttons in addition to text.

A2P SMS in India is limited to one-way communication. WhatsApp facilitates interactive, two-way communication. Times Mobile’s WhatsApp for Business platform enables two-way communication with chatbots as well as live agents in a seamless manner.

Performance and Tracking

Enterprises want their customer communications to be read. Both SMS and WhatsApp perform well on message opens with 90% and 98% of messages being opened, respectively.

Enterprises also want their customer communications to be engaged with. Given the text-only nature of SMS, its click-through rate is anywhere between 1-6%. WhatsApp on the other hand, scores well here, with a click-through rate of around 40%. This is unsurprising since WhatsApp offers the ability to use media, whereas SMS is limited to static text.

Both offer the ability to track the delivery of the message. However, WhatsApp offers the ability to track read receipts as well, which SMS does not. WhatsApp also can track clicks. SMS doesn’t have a native click-tracking ability. Times Mobile, however, offers a comprehensive URL tracking capability for its A2P SMS solution. In addition, for enterprises using our click trackers, we also give a map of the enterprise’s audience against TIL’s audience segments.

Security Measures

WhatsApp emphasizes strong security with end-to-end encryption. Messages are scrambled on the sender’s device and can only be decrypted by the recipient’s device. In addition, WhatsApp offers features like two-step verification and screen lock to enhance security.

SMS lacks in-built encryption. Messages travel in plain text, making them vulnerable to interception by anyone with access to the network infrastructure. However, Times Mobile works with telecom operators that implement significant security measures to secure SMS.


SMS pricing in India is in the range of ₹0.12-0.15 per message, and WhatsApp for Business pricing today is in the range of ₹0.35-0.75 per 24-hour session, depending on the application (utility/service or marketing respectively).


We recommend the following use cases based on the differences highlighted above –

  • WhatsApp is well suited for customer support as it is a good two-way channel. Also, multiple demographics across languages in India are comfortable chatting on it. Times Mobile’s WhatsApp for Business Services can work with you to implement a full solution that integrates chatbots and live agents into an optimal support experience. 
  • WhatsApp is also well suited for marketing applications given its rich messaging capabilities and high click-through rates. At the commercials and click-through rates illustrated above, the effective cost per click for SMS is around ₹5 whereas for WhatsApp it can be as low as ₹1.9.
  • SMS is great for one-way notifications in which there is relatively less interactivity, e.g. delivering OTPs or transactional updates. Times Mobile’s SMS solution can ensure high delivery rates, open rates, and low latency.

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