A message can be classified as 2 types:
- Standard message - contains characters from the GSM Basic Character Set (see below)
- Unicode message - If a message contains any characters that aren’t in the GSM 03.38 basic character set, the message type will be treated as unicode. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GSM_03.38).
A standard SMS message has a maximum of 160 characters. Longer messages are definitely possible, however please be aware that exceeding 160 characters will constitute a ‘second’ message. The end user will see this as 1 long message on their handset.
When a message is longer than 160 characters, this is referred to as a multi-part message as it contains multiple messages (or multiple-parts). The total SMS limit then becomes 153 characters per ‘part’ as the 7 characters are used up by invisible headers and footers which denote which part of the message is being sent (i.e. Part 1 of 2). For example: If a message is longer than 6 message parts, it will be truncated (see below):
Standard English Characters:
- 1 – 160 characters = 1 Message
- 161 – 306 characters = 2 Messages
- 307 – 459 characters = 3 Messages
- 460 – 612 characters = 4 Messages
- 613 – 765 characters = 5 Messages
- 766 – 918 characters = 6 Messages
- 919 – 1071 characters = 7 Messages
- 1072 – 1224 characters = 8 Messages
Non-GSM (Unicode) characters:
- 1 – 70 characters = 1 Message
- 71 – 134 characters = 2 Messages
- 135 – 201 characters = 3 Messages
- 202 – 268 characters = 4 Messages
- 269 – 335 characters = 5 Messages
- 336 – 402 characters = 6 Messages
- 403 – 469 characters = 7 Messages
- 470 – 536 characters = 8 Messages
GSM Basic Character Set
Note: Line breaks/carriage returns count as 2 characters.
Can I send Emoji?
Yes you can, provided that the recipient network supports it. If the recipient network doesn't support them, they will be stripped out. Emojis are counted as 2 unicode characters each (please note that using Emoji changes the encoding of the message to Unicode).
The library of Unicode Characters typically increases periodically as new characters are added. While we do automatically convert some common Unicode characters in the New Message page, we will display an alert when new Unicode characters are detected. We can also turn on our 'Smart Encoding' feature for your account to automatically convert some common Unicode characters as you send messages. Please contact our friendly support team if you have more questions or wish to turn on 'Smart Encoding'.
When copying message content from an external source (such as a Word document), it is possible that your message can contain UTF or UCS characters without being obvious. An example of this is when paragraph formatting is used such as a "Tab" or "whitespace" characters. To combat this, the web portal will replace the problem characters with their equivalent GSM character, ensuring the message goes out as GSM and thus not inadvertently trigger a 70 character limit on the whole message.
PLEASE NOTE: It is not always possible to map UTF characters to a plain text equivalent, so you may wish to check the list of convertible characters before constructing your messages.
A full table of replacements is attached to this article
For more information on character limits in SMS messages, check out this Blog post