Android - MMS Without Data

September 20, 2011 (updated January 23, 2023) by Noah
UPDATE (2017/02/07): because some people can't read, I thought I'd reiterate the key points here at the top of the post:
  • MMS picture messaging simply requires mobile data to be enabled (how do you think all those JPEG bits are getting transferred? They won't fit in the 160 character SMS limit!)
  • The steps on this post end up with mobile data enabled so that MMS works, but it blocks mobile data for Internet use so the other apps can't use it.

Any further comments being like "hurr durr you get MMS to work without data by turning on data" will be redirected to /dev/null. And anyway, this blog post was written when Android 2.3 was current and the steps probably don't even line up 1:1 any more.

UPDATE (2023/01/22): for more clarification, in recent years I've learned a hella lot more about cellular APNs especially since I started tinkering with my Linux phone. The cliffnotes are:
  • Plain text SMS messages get to ride for free. Your phone is making frequent pings to the tower (standard voice signal support) and there was some unused header space on those pings that SMS can slot right onto. That's why it has a 160 character limit: that was the size of the free space on those standard pings.
  • MMS messages are data, and go over the Edge, 3G, 4G, LTE, 5G, etc. data channels.
  • This blog post was about: can I disable mobile data for Internet so that apps don't use my data; but still have MMS working on my phone, which turning mobile data off would also block.
  • An APN can be configured for MMS delivery, for internet data, both, or neither. This post sets the APN for MMS only.

This post was written in the Android 2 days, and I don't know how you do this on modern Android today. Hopefully the above gives you some useful information, and let me know in the comments what the instructions would be today. On to the original post:

Today I finally decided to break up with T-Mobile and take my number and Nexus One phone to AT&T, as a prepaid phone (tl;dr - I'm tired of cell phone ISPs locking people in to contracts and then they can't do anything about it when the ISP changes their plans around).

My Nexus One was originally for T-Mobile's network, so it doesn't work with the 3G on AT&T's... but that's fine because my AT&T plan doesn't include data. But, my phone can still use AT&T's Edge network.

I don't want any random background apps using the Edge network and costing me usage fees when I'm out and about. But, if I disable Mobile Data altogether, picture messaging (MMS) stops working too. So after a lot of searching around I seem to have found a way to disable the mobile network for all apps, but still allow MMS to be sent/received using it.

On my Nexus One, from the home screen:

  1. Push the menu button and pick Settings
  2. Pick "Wireless & networks"
  3. Pick "Mobile networks"
  4. Make sure "Data enabled" is checked (MMS won't work either if you disable it here!)
  5. Go to "Access Point Names"
    • On my phone, the only APN here was named "ATT (wap.cingular)"
  6. Scroll down to the "APN type" setting.
    • On my phone, the original value for this setting was "default,supl,mms"
  7. Change its value to be only "mms".
  8. Push the menu button and pick "Save."
After this, I tested it. I was able to send and receive MMS messages (which turned on the Edge network notification), but apps like Facebook, Google+, and the mobile web browser all complained that I didn't have an Internet connection.




There are 32 comments on this page. Add yours.

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rucov posted on February 28, 2012 @ 19:47 UTC

Thanks for sharing. Helped me a lot.

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Bimo posted on March 4, 2012 @ 00:09 UTC

Thanks, you helped me.

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justin posted on July 10, 2012 @ 14:46 UTC

Thank's I was looking for how to do this.

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justin posted on July 10, 2012 @ 15:13 UTC

These are the settings i have in my apn just in case anyone needs them.

Name: AT&T APN: wap.cingular Proxy: leave blank Port: leave blank Username:WAP@CINGULARGPRS.COM Password:CINGULAR1 (yes this is in CAPS) Server: leave blank MMSC: MMS Proxy: MMS Port: 80 MCC:310 MNC:410 APN Type: mms

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tom posted on August 27, 2012 @ 02:22 UTC

thanks for sharing, helped a lot :)

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anonamouse posted on September 5, 2012 @ 03:02 UTC

I have been trying to figure this out for the last five years. Thank you so much. Much appreciated.

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mag posted on November 2, 2012 @ 03:25 UTC

when I checked data enabled it said, ' significant roaming charges may apply'. I didn't dare take the chance to continue.

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holdenrs posted on March 27, 2013 @ 01:00 UTC

This may be a really old thread, i have no clue, but after doing what you told me, neither data or mms work.

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jozi posted on March 25, 2014 @ 14:26 UTC

Just to create a new dummy profile for Internet connection as the MMS will be there ..

Switch to that profile and activate mobile data. Internet will not work but mms you will get :)


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Heather posted on July 20, 2014 @ 02:44 UTC

How do you do this on the LG 3. I don't see that option

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andrew posted on August 11, 2014 @ 16:42 UTC

this is clearly an old post but i wanted to thank you for pointing me in the right direction.

i have no data plan but want to use mms. in android 4.4 i'm unable to directly change these settings, but i exported the .db file where all this data gets stored, and edited the appropriate field to only say "default,mms" and now i get mms and nothing else!


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Jay posted on August 24, 2014 @ 03:06 UTC

how to I do this for the Galaxy s4.

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payney posted on May 8, 2016 @ 10:54 UTC

gday, we have been having trouble with the same issue on Samsung s2 and s6, data and wifi off no MMS can be sent or retrieved just wifi on no go either, but I have a ASPERA tough phone that if data and wifi are off I can still send and receive MMS, my ASPERA is only a new phone so it may depend on phone or settings I'm with telstra and all good and VODAPHONE say there network wont do MMS without data connection

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Dave posted on December 27, 2016 @ 19:39 UTC

Seeing has how the question is specifically about how to do this WITHOUT data...the "make sure data is enabled " point in your solution is ridiculous and stupid. Try answering the question without enabling data and then maybe you will answer the correct question

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Noah (@kirsle) posted on December 28, 2016 @ 20:41 UTC

Those reading comprehension skills, though...

Make sure "Data enabled" is checked (MMS won't work either if you disable it here!)

If you use that option to disable data usage, then you can not send or receive MMS text messages: so no sending or receiving pictures via text.

My solution has you leave data enabled so that MMS will work (it's the title of this blog post, after all!), and then goes on to further tweak how the data is allowed to be used, so that MMS does work and normal data usage does not.

At any rate, enough things in Android have probably changed since I wrote this post that these steps don't even work today anyway.

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George posted on December 29, 2016 @ 23:12 UTC

I came across this entry while trying to solve my own "how to MMS without a data plan". Finally solved it today! Details: T-Mobile plan: Legacy Pay As You Go: 10 cents per minute, 10 cents per SMS, 25 cents per MMS. (no data) Phone: Moto G4 Play Android 6.0.1

  1. Settings>Cellular networks>Data roaming (enabled)
  2. Settings>Cellular networks>Enhanced 4G LTE Mode (enabled)
  3. Settings>Cellular networks>Access Point Names>T-Mobile US 260 LTE (selected)
  4. T-Mobile US 260 LTE settings: APN: Proxy: Not set Port: Not set Username: none Password: Not set Server: Not set MMSC: MMS proxy: Not set MMS port: not set MMC: 310 MNC: 260 Authentication type: Not set APN type: Not set APN protocol: IPv4/IPv6 APN roaming protocol: IPv4 Bearer: Unspecified MVNO type: None
  5. Settings>Data usage>Cellular data (enabled)
  6. Settings>Data usage>Set cellular data limit (disabled)
  7. Settings>Apps>Messenger(default messaging app for my phone)>Data usage>Restrict app background data (disabled) I can receive MMS using the settings above. Enabling Cellular data was the key. However, my other problem was sending a picture via MMS. The default messaging app did not have an option to attach a photo from stored photos. The key to sending a photo was to select the photo within the "Photo" app, and then "share" the photo with "Messenger". Once I shared the photo with the "Messenger" app, then I had the option to send a message with that photo as an MMS message. Hopefully my solution might help someone else.
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KentheGeek posted on February 7, 2017 @ 17:14 UTC

Good Day, Eh?

So "Enabling cellular data was the key" ? I believe the idea was to use mms WITHOUT using cellular data, no? FAIL!

Good Day, Eh? KentheGeek 🇨🇦150

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JDG posted on February 21, 2017 @ 16:19 UTC

@KentheGeek Cellular data is tagged in different ways and the phone routes it out through Access Points based on how it is tagged. If the data is tagged "MMS", then the phone will prefer an Access Point with that tag. The special type "Default" will match anything that nothing else has matched. So, if you have at Access Point that has only the "Default" tag, MMS will still work. However, if you change your Access Point so that it has only the "MMS" tag, then only data specifically tagged as being for MMS will go through the system.

The cellular provider's network pays close attention to where data is going and bills it accordingly. So, if it notices that the Internet address is an MMS hub, then it checks what your SMS/MMS billing options are. If it is going to somewhere on the Internet that is not specifically recognized, then it gets billed against your data plan (or blocked if you don't have one).

So, if you turn off cellular data entirely, both "Default" and "MMS" data stop working. If you turn on cellular data with the default settings, all types of cellular data are enabled, and you can get billed. But, if your phone allows you to change the access point type, you can make it so that when there is outbound data tagged "Default", it doesn't match that access point and has nowhere to go. This prevents all general Internet access from working, across the board. Since it never leaves your phone, there is no possibility of being billed for it. As long as the access point still has the "MMS" type, though, your MMS messages will be able to go through.

For those curious, I Googled the "SUPL" type, and it stands for Secure User Plane Location, and is a type of data access that provides the phone with all the baseline information needed for GPS positioning. (This is called Assisted GPS, or A-GPS.)

There are three main things that a GPS receiver has to determine in order to work, independently for each satellite: 1) Can it see the satellite at all? 2) What is the exact frequency of the satellite's signal? The satellite is moving quickly, causing Doppler effects that increase or decrease the effective frequency by small but significant amounts, and, 3) How long is the signal taking to get from the satellite to the receiver? Once the GPS receiver has this information for a certain minimum number of satellites, it can estimate your position, and the more satellites it has, the better the estimation.

The problem is, scanning for this information from scratch can take up to 30 seconds per satellite. An unassisted GPS unit can take several minutes to have fully locked onto 6+ satellites and have a reasonably accurate signal. For mobile devices, this delay is unacceptable. So, they operate servers that store all that information and keep it up-to-date for each geographic area. When you turn on GPS on your phone, it reaches out to the SUPL servers and says, "Feed me the GPS numbers", and it gets a burst of data telling it what satellites are visible, roughly what Doppler shift to expect in the transmission, and how to interpret the time codes being received. All this is then immediately usable, and your phone can give you a GPS fix within a second or two.

As with MMS-related data, cellular providers do not charge your data plan for this type of information. So, you could set up the Access Point to have a type of "mms,supl" and get both MMS and fast GPS initialization without risking Internet access charges.

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JDG posted on February 21, 2017 @ 16:26 UTC

This was my source for the SUPL information:

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Anonymous posted on August 23, 2018 @ 09:47 UTC

Tried that option, but as soon I enabled the data, it switchs to the default profile, internet stills works. I change to my custom profile and when I verifiy again, it changed itself.. on a samsung a8 2018... It will not move between profiles if the data is turned off.

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Anonymous posted on August 29, 2018 @ 01:41 UTC (updated 8/29/18 01:42 UTC)

Even though I don't have a data plan and only use wi-fi - just enabling the data function worked! Now I can download my mms messages over wi-fi with no data plan! Thank you.

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Screeming with frustration posted on December 6, 2018 @ 05:26 UTC

First right up front, I admit know little about cell phones. Mostly use it for the camera. Hate texting. I have the same situation on my new Samsung A8 (as Anonymous posted Aug 23, 2018.) As of 2 months ago I had a Samsung S6, loved it, (died a hot death) no problem, did not have to turn data on to send & recieve pics via text. Worked every time. My hubby currently has a Samsung S7, he does not have to turn data on to send or recieve texts with attachments, works every time. I can't seem to do anything to make my A8 work this way. Compared hubby setting with mine-identical. Have no idea what to do. FRUSTRATED. Called Bell, useless, waste of time. Called Samsung said need 3rd party app to make this work without data- Said download Messenger App, this will allow you to send and receive pics without data on...useless as tits on a bull. All that got me was a wave from a strange man the next town over...UNINSTALL.
Good thing I had a warning set on my data when phone set up at time of purchase. I did not know the girl turned the data on, (I always had it off), voila, 3G warning went off within days. I never use data unless out of town, use wifi. Hate having to remember to turn on and off constantly. This is hatefully inconvenient. Thanks for listening/reading.

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Anonymous posted on January 18, 2019 @ 20:38 UTC

Old. Info is useless

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Sher posted on May 23, 2019 @ 01:06 UTC

Will I receive data charges when I follow this step? I'm on a plan that charges daily if data is used, I've opted out of data because there is wifi everywhere I go. I really do not want to be charged for allowing mms on my phone.

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Anonymous posted on May 31, 2019 @ 03:34 UTC

Sher, most likely you will be charged, because before you can finish the mms set up following these steps your phones other apps/background apps will use data. My provider Bell charges a minimum of $10 up to 100 Mb usage

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Joey C posted on August 20, 2020 @ 02:28 UTC

on a pixel 2 phone. there is an option to toggle "send and receive MMS when data is off" you can see it from Settings>Network This means you can send and receive MMS without manually turning mobile data on

I can't find this functionality to non-pixel android phones.

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norwood451 posted on January 16, 2021 @ 00:11 UTC

FYI- If you do this and you have a limit minute usage, you can run out of minutes with one SMS photo. If you have limited minutes, I recommend you get a google voice phone number and get unlimited SMS and MMS messages.

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Anonymous posted on May 25, 2022 @ 16:06 UTC

MMS doesn't require mobile data, it can be sent over the cellular networks without mobile data.

Many phone firmwares disable the native ability to send MMS for inexplicable reasons.

Some phones have an option in settings "send and receive mms with mobile data turned off" and others do not.

In some cases simply using a third party texting app that doesn't have RCS support will allow the MMS to work as intended.

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Anonymous posted on June 22, 2022 @ 21:28 UTC

Wow. Rude tone.

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Anonymous posted on October 15, 2022 @ 00:04 UTC

Holy crap!!!.. I've been at this. Since 11:30a.m ..and its...8:00..p.m.,..THANK YOU..👍❕❕❕❕(AND...YES,,THATS ALL IN CAPS!😉)

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Tocatchacheater posted on November 17, 2022 @ 05:44 UTC

Thanks for the everything$$! 😊

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Kamey posted on May 16, 2023 @ 21:35 UTC

This was a very interesting read.

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