Chicago (IL) - With the iPhone 3G just two weeks away, we wonder what's going on with the support â€“ or better said, the lack of support - for MMS messaging, a popular multimedia service widely used to exchange pictures between users of MMS-enabled mobile phones. The first iPhone lacked this capability and it seems the iPhone 2.0 update won't bring MMS after all. But MMS will come to the iPhone in future updates and users of jailbroken iPhones already have a third-party MMS application.
Apple is mum on the matter. Its executives didn't mention MMS at Apple's recent developers conference in San Francisco. It's unclear why this popular feature seems to be low on Apple's priority list, especially since there aren't any technical hurdles that would prevent the company from bringing it to the iPhone. One thing is certain: Apple will bring MMS to the iPhone, probably in future software updates. In the meantime, users of jailbroken iPhones can use unofficial application to send and receive picture MMS messages.
AT&T revealed MMS support for iPhone 3G?
Mac site "9 to 5 Mac" claims that an AT&T employee memo specifically lists MMS (multimedia messaging service) support, but the author didn't backed the claim with substantial evidence. Some think that the lack of bulk SMS messages in AT&T's voice plans means that there are some special iPhone 3G plans that are yet to be introduced. However, that is unlikely to happen because iPhone no longer receives special treatment from AT&T now that the carrier no longer shares service revenue with Apple.
AT&T has previously created iPhone-exclusive special plans that included voice minutes, SMS messages and unlimited data. Today, iPhone 3G users will simply pick up any regular voice, data and text plan, just like users of any other handset. Since AT&T's voice plans don't include bulk SMS messages, iPhone 3G users who message heavily will have to upgrade their voice plans with a bulk SMS message option (200 messages upgrade starts at $5 a month).
International carriers also don't have MMS included in their plans. NetCom, the iPhone 3G carrier in Norway, has no MMS messages in any of its iPhone plans (English translation provided by Google Translate).
Apple patent suggests MMS will come
We too think it's unlikely that MMS will be introduced with iPhone 2.0 update since developers who scavenge firmware beta files didn't spot any proof of MMS existence. However, MMS is coming to the iPhone, very likely in the future iPhones software updates. The Apple patent filing number 20080055269 filed with the US Patent & Trademark Office proves that the company plans to encompass SMS, MMS, IM and other types of data-based message exchange in a single iPhone application dubbed "IM". It would use the interface similar to the existing SMS application. Apple specifically says in the patent filing that the chat interface could also be used for MMS picture and video messages.
Third-party MMS solution for jailbroken iPhones
Those who have jailbroken their iPhones have enjoyed MMS capabilities thanks to a third-party application called SwirlyMMS. Last week the author released an updated (v1.0) version that sports a similar interface to iPhone's Mail application. The startup screen shows the sent history list and creation of a new MMS message is similar to email messages: you need to choose the recipient (MMS can be sent to a mobile phone number or to an email address), write the message title and attach one or more images from iPhone's picture library.
The application will display total size of MMS message. You also choose various image resize options to reduce size of the pictures attached to an MMS message. This is important since carriers charge MMS messages according to their size, with higher prices for international MMS messages. For instance, AT&T charges 50 cents a message for international picture/video messages sent from the US, with 300 Kb in size. If your message is over 300KB, AT&T will bill it an additional 50 cents. The carrier also charges you when you send OR receive MMS messages - therefore, it's a good thing to check the MMS pricing with your carrier before actually using the service.
Before you can actually use MMS service, you have to tap Settings in the application to configure MMS service parameters such as MMS server and APN settings. Values that you need to enter are different for each carrier, but users around the world are posting proven settings for their country's operators on the author's web site. In order to use MMS on a jailbroken iPhone, you may need to have a service plan that includes MMS, but most carriers today allow pre-paid users to use MMS service as well. Before the service is used for the first time, you may need to call your carrier's support and ask them to explicitly activate MMS service.