Why Is Sprint Blocking MMS Picture Messages On High-End Phones?

Sprint appears to be blocking MMS picture messages on certain phones, specifically high-end ones like the HTC Touch. Although the phones are fully capable of sending and receiving such messages, Sprint sells them with the required features disabled, and each time a third-party developer comes up with a software solution that solves the problem, Sprint swoops in and “fixes” it so that it no longer works.

One member of this forum posted a response he received from a Sprint CSR explaining why Sprint does this:

I understand your frustration. I also have a Touch and when I send pictures, I have to use the same method as Mary O outlined below.

Understand that Sprint uses CDMA technology to provide cellular and data usage to our customers. So, even though the phone may have been designed to send pictures a certain way, the phone had to be altered by HTC to work on our network. You may be able to send pictures as text messages on other networks, but the speeds of your data and the quality of your phone calls would not be as they are with Sprint.

We hear your feedback loud and clear. A lot of employees here at Sprint have the same phone as you and I and have to send pictures the same way.

Again, I am sorry for any inconvenience that this causes you on a daily basis. But please understand that if this feature was altered in some way, it was for the benefit of customers, not to aggravate them.

Other forum members point out that Sprint isn’t the only company to use CDMA—Verizon and Alltel do as well, and they allow MMS messaging. Beyond that, it’s not every phone that’s disabled, only certain high-end ones.

What’s even more ridiculous is that the affected customers are paying for the same multimedia messaging plan that every other customer has—yet they’re being artificially restricted from using MMS. One frustrated Sprint customer writes,

Sprint has started blocking the messages from their end and now claim that the feature isn’t intended for these devices. It’s a shame that they have taken this stance because a lot of people bought these expensive devices precisely because they are capable of all sorts of functions like multimedia, messaging, and web browsing.

The issue a lot of us have is that

  • The devices are capable of sending MMS messages
  • The same devices on other carriers can send these messages
  • My plan includes these messages
  • The device was advertised as being capable of multimedia messages
  • I was sending the messages until recently
  • The ability to send the messages is now blocked

(Thanks to Jerry and Dwayne!)

(Cage photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. davebg5 says:

    Sounds like an easy way out of your Sprint contract w/out having to pay an ETF.

    Sometimes it’s best not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

  2. y2julio says:

    I was never able to send MMS msgs from my Motorola Q. I was able to recieve them but i had to log into Sprint picture mail from my PC or my phone browser to look at them.

  3. ? graffiksguru says:

    shouldn’t you be able to get out of your contract because of that?

  4. UpsetPanda says:

    Isn’t it just obvious that Sprint hates people?

  5. dipsy30 says:

    I don’t believe this is a contract killer. Believe me the only reason I stay with Sprint with the Mogul (PPC6800) is the fact the data is so cheap. If they keep up this type of activity I will jump ship. The fact Sprint is the only carrier who is blocking a $500 phone from accessing picture mail is unbelievable.

  6. edrebber says:

    If the plan allows MMS messages but sprint is blocking MMS messages, then Sprint is breaching the contract. The customer should pay their bill with a credit card and then dispute the charge.

  7. Brad2723 says:

    They are probably in the midst of setting up their own version of this service that will cost you extra. Verizon has been notorious for this practice.

  8. sleze69 says:

    @davebg5: /agree

  9. ctboss says:

    I can’t send picture messages with my Motorola Q, I’ve complained several times but only receive a bullshit ‘Yea that phone doesn’t have that feature’ kind of response. The Verizon Motorola Q is MMS capable.

  10. The Count of Monte Fisto says:

    Clearly this has something to do with this season of The Wire.

  11. Nighthawke says:

    Sprint is indeed in breach of their contract with smartphone users.

    EECB time with this one. Verizon may be getting stupid with crippling their phones, but let’s not let the same happen with our Sprint accounts.

  12. chelc says:

    I have a HTC model – and am so frustrated by this problem. The people I actually want to send pictures to all have picture mail – I’m the one who gets to send pictures to emails. LAME.

    I’m half hoping this can get me out of my contract. I’m regretting signing with them again for two years.

  13. ethanrik says:

    I have the same trouble with Verizon, another CDMA provider, only that for each picture message I send/receive. I get charged DATA kilobytes when I should not. Verizon says they fixed it, but I keep getting billed for data I do not use. I finally just blocked all data on my PDA phone and now I can’t send/receive MMS.

    Solution….GSM in 10 months!

  14. warf0x0r says:

    This is all because of Season 5 of The Wire. I’m not going to ruin it for anyone, but I’m pretty sure its the reason


  15. matto says:

    I dont understand why anyone would still be a Sprint customer at this point.

  16. deadlizard says:

    Silly Sprint. They can just do what Verizon does and ask phone
    manufacturers to cripple the feature. Same as AT&T, that very
    likely asked Apple not to include the MMS picture message feature in
    the iPhone.

  17. dohtem says:

    The device was advertised as being capable of multimedia messages

    Isn’t that false advertising?

    Lawsuit? BBB? FCC?

  18. DjSnipSnip says:

    AT&T does the same on the iPhone. I have to log in to view MMS sent to me via an ugly UI, which defeats the purpose of MMS: if I wanted to send/recieve the pics on my laptop browser, I would do it via e-mail and save $00.10 per msg !!

  19. JerryA says:

    @matto: Because they have the fastest data network, the cheapest unlimited data rates by far, and the best Pocket PCs of any major US provider.

    That last quote in the article was from my email this morning and while I stand by it, I mainly just want them to unblock this common feature. If it is a choice between having to send MMS via email and switching to a provider that charges 3x as much for unlimited data then I will deal with the email. It’s just very frustrating when rather than deal with whatever issue this was causing, they just blocked the feature. That’s not how to take care of your high-end customers who stick by you even as your company is hemorrhaging subscribers.

  20. IronHelix says:

    Hi, for the record I’m the same IronHelix that posted the petition on buzzaboutwireless.com. I don’t work for Sprint, I just frequent their message board and use their phones. I own an affected device, the PPC-6800 ‘Mogul’. You can find the original start of the discussion here:
    Sprint ‘smart devices’- PDAs, Windows Mobile, etc have never had the ability to send MMS messages. Received MMS arrive as a SMS web link which displays the message in a web page.

    It has always been this way. This is not for any technical reason, it’s because Sprint decided on this policy a long time ago and still today ‘business devices’ don’t get MMS (they do get a huge Sprint Music Store link though :) ). As a result the WindowsMobile firmware builds don’t include MMS software and BlackBerry 8130 has MMS disabled by service book.

    The official line is that to send a MMS, you should send the picture as an email attachment via the recipients email gateay, IE TenDigitPhoneNumber@gateway.carrier.com. Each carrier has a different format for this; sprint is @messaging.sprintpcs.com. You must first figure out what carrier your friend uses and what their gateway is, then email it. Clumsy+++

    The ‘3rd party hack’ you keep hearing about was developed by a group of WinMo enthusiasts, they took the MMS software package from another carrier’s phone, reconfigured it for Sprint’s MMS servers, and repackaged it for easy installation. It adds MMS ability to a Sprint WinMo PDA, but of course must send the message via the Sprint servers. This has never been perfectly reliable– sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It would seem lately Sprint has made sure it doesn’t.

    In fairness to Sprint, the advertising generally doesn’t suggest the PDAs can MMS, but it’s still usually a big surprise that a $400 phone can’t MMS these days. Also many CSRs aren’t aware of the limitation or why it exists, which leads to customers being incorrectly told it can MMS or bad explanations like the one posted with this article.

  21. dipsy30 says:

    I give up, what happened on the Wire which would affect this?

  22. fdx3k1 says:

    I have the 8130 BB Pearl and it doesn’t have the option to send pics or video over MMS. I asked Sprint about it and was able to get a discount on my service because they don’t offer it for my phone….but my wife’s Centro will allow her to do it….doesn’t make any sense.

  23. Buran says:

    @elrefai: The phone just doesn’t support the feature. This isn’t AT&T being evil (AT&T/Cingular aren’t known for crippling phones) — the phone never had the feature, period. Maybe it’ll get it later. For now, I just e-mail photos — it does support that.

    It doesn’t have IM either, but you can use IM just fine on AT&T phones that do support it or that allow app install, like Windows Mobile — the extensibility was nice but the OS was a trainwreck.

    IM is the first thing I’m installing when it becomes available via SDK-written apps, probably in March.

  24. MalcoveMagnesia says:

    My plan includes “Sprint Power Vision” access, which comes with something called “Sprint Picture Mail”. Which I’ve never been able to access. And apparently must not be the same thing as MMS.

  25. firesign says:

    t-mobile does the same thing on the sidekick, at least when i had my sk2. you could send pics via email but not mms, even though danger built the capability into the phone. sprint is full of shit, it’s got nothing to do with cdma, it has to do with them crippling features same as t-mobile did, and t-mobile is gsm.

  26. paulprod says:

    My educated guess would be that Sprint and VzW (and other carriers) are worried of people running mass messaging applications on smartphones overloading their somewhat limited MMSC capacity (MMSC is a service platform for sending and receiving MM messages.)

  27. BamAlmighty says:

    From what I have seen, MMS works a little different on Sprint than the other carriers. Sprint’s “Picturemail” doesn’t use the standard MMS protocols, instead they have to tailor each phone’s UI/firmware to work with their “Picturemail” service.

    Which is why it doesn’t really work with Windows Mobile. Windows Mobile’s text messaging only works the specific text messaging standards and while you can hack it to send MMS, you won’t be able to receive MMS the way Sprint’s “Picturemail” works.

    So unless Sprint develops a specific Windows Mobile Picturemail APP or DROP their stupid Picturemail service in the first place and use the standard MMS protocols. Us endusers are screwed.

    I’m not a huge fan of class action law suits, but I am also paying for a service I can’t fully utilize, so… bring on the litigation.

  28. BamAlmighty says:

    Then again, Sprint doesn’t exactly advertise their Windows Mobile phones as having the MMS capability.

    But it is still lazy and cheap of them.

  29. Trai_Dep says:

    This kind of thing makes Apple’s decision to pair their iPhone with a network that they can control the user’s experience on a lot more justifiable.

    Not saying it’s perfect, and I’d never give money to AT&T, but just a bit more understandable.

  30. Das Kommunist says:

    I would like to know who told you that high-end phones do not support MMS. In fact they do. I work as a Lead Trainer in a Sprint Call-Center and I have not seen or heard of anything like that.

    If you are talking about the Touch, it is manufactured by HTC and was distributed as such. I have a Sprint smart-phone and have yet to have any such issue.

  31. LINIS says:

    I have the Sprint HTC Touch. Rumor around the internet is that MMS messaging capabilities are going to be included in our update which is coming soon – promised in the first quarter of this year but it should be sooner rather than later, as the HTC Mogul has gotten its update. The update will also enable the GPS in the HTC Touch that was disabled in the phone. Again, the update itself is a definite, but I can’t say for certain that the MMS capabilities will be part of the update. I’m pretty confident it will be though, and if not, someone will come up with another way around it.

  32. iwantansi says:

    I had the Blackberry Pearlk 8130 on Sprint.. I had previewed the Verizon version and couldnt wait for the Sprint version… so I bought it on ebay a couple days before the phone was even available through retail channels… well i got the phone and guess what? NO MMS.. you have to send them through email… and even that doesnt work properly… that phone was returned immediately and I am now with Verizon….. My Treo 650, 700p, 755p all had MMS, yet the first cameraphone blackberry on sprint doesnt… WTFBBQ!

  33. starbreiz says:

    Sprints idea of MMS is to upload the photo to their site, then send a link to said photo in the message. Not that I’ve seen on other carriers.

  34. goingportable says:

    Can’t do it with my Moto Q. It’d be great to know if this is a breach of contract…would love to break the chains…

  35. alulim says:

    Sprint does not support a universal MMS feature in the same way it does SMS(it didn’t support sms for a long time too). MMS messages are categorized as picture mail/video mail. You can get unlimited access/messages for $15/month. They will work perfectly for/to and from sprint users.

    Windows Mobile does not have the latent ability to send MMS messages to other mobile devices. You can send them as emails or download mods.

    Sprint is not disabling their “high end” devices, they just happen to run windows mobile.

    The 8830 blackberry is an international device, designed to operate with maximum functionality all over the world. I’m not sure of its MMS capability but I can say it was not a high consideration for Sprint or RIM. Perhaps you were thinking of that device because i can speak with experience to the capabilities of the Pearl (8130).

  36. vw195 says:

    Alulim You are incorrect. There was a working MMS solution for WM phones that Sprint actively blocked, so yes they are in fact disabling their high end devices..

  37. endless says:

    If they blocked this because of the wire, i love that show more than i do now.

  38. Onouris says:

    Why do Americans put up with this kind of crap. Get the same plan on another company. Unless of course they’re more expensive and somehow manage to get away with it. Or Sprint has some kind of coverage monopoly going on.

  39. vw195 says:

    Sprint has extremely cheap data plans. $15.00 (or less)/month all you can eat data.

  40. uberGoober says:

    I am getting so fed up with Sprint myself. I’m about to jump ship and go elsewhere too. IF they had stellar customer service (read: live humans who knew what a cell phone was), perhaps, I could understand charging a premium for some of their services..but the CSR’s barely have dragged their knuckles into this millenium.

    This is just the same as the GPS-capable/EVDO Rev A. advertisement for the Mogul which turned out to be a load of crock. I am sick and tired of it.

  41. soloudinhere says:

    I never had a problem sending or receiving picture messages on my Sprint Mogul. Cancelled the service because sprint is evil incarnate, but MMS was one thing that always worked.

  42. blazingfate says:

    I have the Mogul and Q9c. I was initially told that I would have Pic Messaging capabilities with both. Now I am basically being told to deal with it. Thats just one of the many problems I have been having with Sprint. I personally am switching soon. For so long I have believed that things will get better. It hasnt.

  43. Anonymous says:

    I am starting to hate Sprint!

    They got me with the cheap plan but between them blocking me from using my HTC as an Internet gateway and now this picture mail blocking it is simply not worth the “cheap” price.