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First of all, there is a difference in the way they appear on the screen. Normal text messages appear as green bubbles, while iMessages appear as blue bubbles. The incoming messages will always be white, regardless of whether it is an iMessage or a normal text message. (What is an iMessage?)
Differences in Cost
iMessages are free in the sense that they do not add to your SMS count or your SMS bill (Same goes for MMS over iMessaging). This is because iMessages are sent as data over the network. So they do add to your data usage, but not to your SMS rate.
iMessages tell you when your text has been read. It also easily enables you to send group messages with the messaging app.
The appearance of an iMessage or a normal text message can be perfectly recreated with the iPhoneTextClone text message screenshot generator.