How Many Characters In A Text Message? [A Character Count Guide]

Those who remember the early days of mobile phones may also remember that you couldn’t send more than one text message at a time.

When we send a text message today, we often forget that there is a character limit because many modern mobiles just allow to put in your full message even when it’s above the character limit.

Your provider will just charge you for the number of messages you sent.

How Many Characters In A Text Message? [A Character Count Guide]

But how many characters can you put into a text message? While the 160 characters of an SMS seem short, they are often full of meaning.

In this article, we find out more about the character limit of a text messages and how you can make the most of each SMS. 

How Many Characters Are In A Text Message?

A text message can fit maximum 160 characters. If you write more than 160 characters, then the SMS message or text will be split into two separate messages or more.

This may not be a lot of space to write a message but it has yielded surprising results for many of us.

With fewer characters, we learn to keep a message concise and to the point. 

Saying this, today many mobile plans come with unlimited text messages which means that the number of SMS you sent doesn’t matter as much anymore.

What Counts As A Character In A Text Message?

When you send a text messages, then each symbol, space and standard letter counts as a single character.

These standard characters are called GSM characters and they can be found on your mobile’s keyboard.

However, there are a few exceptions, such as emojis. Emojis are relatively modern, so they weren’t around when the first text messages were sent.

The majority of emoji symbols take up two characters.

We use more emojis in our text messages today than ever before. These symbols aren’t just great fun but they also support whatever you want to say in an SMS.

Saying this, it’s a good idea to use only a few emojis in text messages as they can quickly reduce your 160 characters.

The same counts for the use of non-standard Unicode characters. If you use these symbols, then your message will be reduced to as low as 70 characters.

Can You Send Texts Longer Than 160 Characters?

Being restricted to a 160 character limit can also mean that you won’t be able to write everything that you wanted to write.

There is good news though! It is possible to extend a message to up to 306 characters.

 However, this means that messages are usually broken into two messages with 153 characters each.

The recipient will receive both messages, so there is nothing to worry about when it comes to receiving longer text messages.

Why 160 Characters?

There is a good reason why SMS messages are restricted to 160 characters, and it started with Friedhelm Hillebrand in 1985.

Hillebrand was chairman of the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) in the mid-1980s and he was tasted to come up with a specific character limit for text messaging.

One day, Hillebrand typed out random thoughts on his typewriter and he noticed that the majority of these messages were under 160 characters.

But that wasn’t enough proof of a character limit for him, so he also counted the characters on different postcards.

Again, Hillebrand realized that they also used fewer than 160 characters. He then decided to limit the number of characters in a text message to 160.

How Is The Length Of A Text Message Calculated?

What many people don’t know is that only your first message is 160 characters, while any messages that go beyond the 160 character limit are just 153 characters long.

The remaining 7 characters of your second text message is used to instruct your mobile handset to combine the two messages with each other on the receive’s end.

This allows the receiver to read your text message as one long text and not a series of individual messages.

Can Text Messages Be Too Long To Send?

Yes and No. A text message is limited to 160 characters for standard letters and spaces. 

Depending on your mobile phone provider, you can write as many text messages as you like.

However, bear in mind that each message will be charged by your provider and that, unless you are on an unlimited text plan, messaging could become expensive.

Does Sending A Longer SMS Cost You More?

Does Sending A Longer SMS Cost You More?

Yes, sending longer text messages costs more. The longer your SMS, the more you will be charged by your mobile provider.

The first 160 characters of your text message will be charged as one text credit, and any following 153 characters will be charged as a block with additional text credits.

The exact price depends on your mobile provider.

Is SMS The Same As iMessage?

No, SMS messages aren’t the same as iMessage. With iMessage, you can send an unlimited number of characters in a message.

In addition, iMessage only uses your phone’s data and it does not count against your text credits.

iMessages are data messages that are sent between two iPhones.

How To Stay Within Your 160 Character Limit For A Text Message?

Even if you are on an unlimited texting plan with your phone provider, it’s still a good idea to keep your text message as short as possible.

This is especially important for marketers who want to use text messaging as a form of marketing or updating their customers.

Here are some essential tips on how to keep your text messages within the 160 character limit.

Avoid Copy And Paste

It can be tempting to just copy and paste some text, especially when you just want to quickly share a quote with your friends.

However, copies messages often contain hidden Unicode characters which can increase the number of your characters without you noticing.

The best way to copy content is to either paste it into a plain text editor first before putting in your message, or you can also paste the text without formatting.

This will show you all the characters inside the text, and you can cut out any characters that you don’t need.

Use SMS Templates

This one is more for marketers. If you want to use text messages as a marketing tool, then you can set up basic SMS templates which can save you a lot of time.

These templates don’t just save you time writing, but they will also highlight any character limits.

Plus, you can share them with your team to ensure that you stay on brand with your tone of voice.

Use Short Links

Many URLs are extremely long, and as each character counts, they can quickly eat up your character count in a text messages.

If you want to share a link to a website with your friends or family, then it’s a good idea to find a short, shareable URL.

Final Thoughts

Although text messages have a standard 160 character limit, times are changing slowly and we are moving towards sending unlimited text messages.

As technology develops, you may even see the humble text message change.

Alan Reiner

Alan Reiner

Hi, my name is Alan Reiner and I have been in the writing industry for almost seven years. I write articles that can span from 200 words all the way to 20,000 words every single day. How do I do it? With a lot of determination. All my way through school and college, I hated long-form assignments. I could never get into the groove of working on one piece for an extended period of time. My pieces were always late because I didn’t have the motivation to type them, let alone edit them.