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Can I Send a Text Message Longer Than 160 Characters?

Found in: Messages

Character length is typically set by country. In the U.S. the character count per text message is 160 characters. Beyond this, most modern mobile cell phones and networks support concatenation, which is a process of combining messages longer than 160 characters into one fluent long message. This process is more professional but uses up a few characters to instruct your phone how to rebuild the message into one fluent SMS. The alternative is sending separate messages of 160 character chunks with the possibility of going out of order.

 

                     GSM Standard Characters

                        (QWERTY Keyboard)

What is GSM?

GSM characters are the standard characters used to write SMS messages. These characters are found your normal keyboard (usually referred to as a QWERTY keyboard. The name QWERTY comes from the order of the first six keys on the top left letter row of the keyboard)

 

GSM - Encoding & Length

When you send an SMS Message longer than 160 characters, the message will be concatenated and split into 153 character chunks. The 1st 7 characters of each message are used to instruct the carriers and your handset to concatenate the message and re-build it into one fluent long message upon delivery. That means your length drops to 153 for each message, including the first message.

Try yourself here: What's My Character Count?

 

Instructions - In the "Insert Message Content" Box, copy and paste the following statement: I am an awesome person! I am loved, appreciated, and full of potential. This is a test of my character count with SlickText. This could be a marketing or a comm

Notice how the message is cut off. It's suppose to be!

If you start typing beyond this to finish the text, you will notice that the character count reaches 161 but the characters per SMS drops to 153. You have now entered the message concatenation zone! One you have entered this zone, ALL messages (including the first one) will be limited to 153 characters. The remaining 7 characters are used by the carriers to write coding which places the messages in order when putting them back together. While you don't see this coding inside of the text itself, you will notice in the message breakdown below your content box on this page that the coding appears in blue. It looks something like this: 0x05 0x00 0x03 0x0a 0x02 0x0

 

                                Unicode

                    (NON-GSM Characters)

What is Unicode and how does it differ from GSM?

Unicode is another form of sending method. “Unicode SMS” refers to SMS messages sent and received containing characters not found in the GSM character set. An SMS allows up to 160 characters from the GSM-7 character set, which includes all latin characters A-Z, digits 0-9, plus a few special characters. Unicode handles any known character but also takes up more SMS space than GSM’s messages. Therefore, Unicode SMS messages are limited to 70 characters, and messages longer than this will be segmented.

 

Unicode - Encoding and Length

If you include non-GSM characters (characters which are not found on a standard QWERTY keyboard) such as emojis in your message, your message will automatically convert from GSM to Unicode. Messages containing any characters such as emojis are split into 70 character chunks. Like GSM, Unicode also offers message concatenation. Unlike the GSM character deducation of 7 characters per, Unicode messages will only lose 3 characters when concatenating. The messages will be concatenated into 67 characters using 3 characters from the beginning of each 70-character chunk. Each extra emoji deducts 2-8 characters depending on the emoji type.

For example, you'll notice when copying and pasting: 😀 into a message on the Character Count Page, the characters used will be 2 and the Characters per SMS will be 70. However, the doctor emoji: 👨🏽‍⚕️ uses 7 characters. The amount of characters used depends on the file size of the emoji, which differs depending on which emoji is used.

 

 

Here's a chart breakdown of the character count options.

 

                     Regular SMS                Multipart SMS

GSM              160 Chars                       153 Chars

Unicode        70 Chars                         67 Chars

 

Escape characters

Escape characters, which are technically extensions of your 7-bit GSM character set, are also encoded differently and deduct 2 characters per escape character.

These include the following characters:  | ^ € [ ] { } ~ to name a few.

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