Why are some text messages converted to photo messages?

In this article

Many smartphones today allow you to bring your messages to life with pictures, animations and many more features. When you send messages containing such features to other phones, they are sent as photo messages.

iPhone and Samsung are devices that will convert text messages to photo messages.

Are photo messages included in my plan?

Are photo messages included in my plan?

All our phone plans now come with 50 free photo messages in the first month of your new contract. You'll receive a text message from us on day one of your new contract letting you know that your 50 free photo messages are available. At the end of your first month we'll send another text message letting you know that the offer has ended.

Once the offer has ended you'll be able to buy an add-on, which will give you an allowance every month to send photo messages at a reduced monthly price. If you don't have an allowance then every time you send a photo message you will be charged a fixed fee (currently 55p per message) for each message you send to each recipient. These charges will appear on your bill in the photo messages section.

Find out more

You can find out more about the charges for photo messages in our price plans

Some phones also automatically convert some text messages, especially emojis, to photo messages. So if you’ve been charged for sending a photo message when you didn't intend to send one, this might be because your device has automatically converted a text message to a photo message.

When do devices convert text messages to photo messages?

When do devices convert text messages to photo messages?

This can happen when:
    you’re using iPhone Messages and sending features and effects to a non-iPhone user, or when iMessage is unavailable

    your text includes a non-standard smiley or symbol such as an emoticon, emoji, or iPhone X Animoji


    your text is sent to an email address instead of to a phone number


    you're sending a group text message


    your text exceeds the character limit (on some phones this is 160 characters, on others it can be higher)


    your message has a subject line

Sending a photo message instead of a text message is down to the phone you’re using, the messaging platform, or the person you’re sending the message to. It is not because of the EE network.

What alternatives do I have?

What alternatives do I have?

Pay monthly customers

Cover yourself with an add-on so you can enjoy sending them to your heart’s content. Buy 200 photo messages for £6 a month (only 3p per photo message).

To buy an add-on

TEXT 200MMS to 150 (pay monthly only)

Further information about photo messaging and buying a photo message add-on is available on our photo messaging help page. Pay monthly customers can also buy a photo message add-on in My EE.

Small business customers

If you are a small business customer you can get 200 photo messages for £3.33 ex VAT per month.

To buy an add-on

CALL 150 

Further information on photo messaging is available in the EE small business price guide.

How do I make sure I’m not accidentally sending photo messages?

How do I make sure I’m not accidentally sending photo messages?

When a photo message is sent instead of a text message, it's because of the device you’re using, the device you’re sending a message to or the messaging platform you’re using.

EE has no control over this but here's some more information to help you avoid further charges:

Is your device software up to date?

More recent device software will usually, but not always, warn you when a text message has been converted to a photo message. Ensuring you have the latest updates applied to your device will decrease the chances of the conversion happening without your knowledge.

Are you using an iPhone?

If you’re sending messages using iMessage features and effects - such as Digital Touch, handwritten messages, images and videos - to a non-iPhone user, or when iMessage is unavailable, they can be converted to photo messages and will incur a charge for each message sent.

Features and effects include things like:

    changing the way your message bubbles look


    sending a message in your own handwriting


    sharing a URL (website) link in a message


    sending a message or photo in invisible ink


    tapback responses from preselected animations


    sharing music content from a message or the Apple Music app


    animations such as fireballs, heartbeats, sketches and stickers

If you want to switch off the photo messaging function on your device, instructions on how to do this can be found in our phones and devices guides.

Note: Disabling photo messages means you won’t be able to send or receive photo messages unless they’re sent via iMessage.

Are you using an older Samsung device?

Some devices, such as older Samsung devices will convert text messages to photo messages when an emoticon/emoji is used, resulting in a photo-message charge for each message sent.

If you are using an older Samsung device, follow these steps to ensure emojis inserted using the standard keyboard on your device do not convert the text message to a photo message.

Messaging > Settings > Text Messages > Input mode > select Unicode instead of Automatic

Do any of your contacts have an email address but no phone number?

When composing a message, if you select a contact who has an email address but no phone number, some devices will convert the message to a photo message. When sending a text message, be sure to select only contacts with phone numbers as recipients.

Are you sending a group message?

Group messaging allows multiple recipients to be sent the same message. Some devices will automatically convert group messages to photo messages. Consult your device's user manual to check if there are any settings that can be adjusted to alter this behaviour.

On Android: if the "Group Messaging" option is turned on within Messaging Settings, then group messages will be sent as photo messages.

On iOS: if the "Group Messaging" option is turned on within the Messages section under Settings, then group messages will be sent as photo messages.

Have you added a subject line or included a photo in your message?

If you have added a subject line or included a photo in your message, then your device will more than likely send a photo message because these are not features of text messages.

Have you downloaded any third-party emoji applications or third-party keyboards?

Check the terms and conditions of any third-party emoji applications and keyboards downloaded from application stores. Some third-party applications and keyboards will send emojis as photo messages. If you are only inserting emojis using the keyboard on your device as part of a text, then a text is usually sent providing you have the latest software for your device.

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