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Once a text message becomes long enough, it becomes cheaper to send it as a text-only MMS message. For example, on T-Mobile UK contracts, an MMS counts as 2 SMS messages, so if your multipart text message requires 3 SMS or more to be sent, then you're better off sending the message as an MMS.
With older Nokia phones you needed to copy the entire text to the clipboard, close the message you were writing, start a new multimedia message and then paste the text into it.
The N96 doesn't have separate "new text message" and "new multimedia message" functions. It just has "new message" and you can change between SMS and MMS quite easily without having to copy/paste the text.
So, assuming you have a long text message that you want to convert into an MMS:
While composing it, go into "Options" / "Message header fields". Mark "Subject" and press "OK". A subject header for you to fill in will appear under the recipient. As soon as you start filling stuff into the subject header, a message box will appear saying "Message type changed to multimedia message". Done!
Alternatively, even if no subject header is displayed, as soon as you insert into the message something that can't be sent as an SMS (a picture, video or audio clip for example), the message type will also switch to multimedia automatically.
Now, if you want to reply to a multimedia message, the chances are that what you're replying to had a subject header, which will be maintained in your reply, thus forcing it to be a multimedia message too. What if you want to reply by text message alone since it's cheaper?
Easy. You either delete everything in the subject header of your reply, which will make the message revert to "text" type automatically, or you remove the subject header altogether: go into "Options" / "Message header fields". Unmark "Subject" and press "OK". If there was something in the subject header you will be asked to confirm that you want to discard that data.
Tip: leave the subject header displayed when composing messages. If you want to send a text message you just leave it blank. If you want to send a multimedia message then you fill it in and/or attach multimedia content. To reply to an MMS by SMS you simply have to delete the subject header's content.
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