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How many characters does an SMS have?

Category: SMS Marketing

Imagen How many characters does an SMS h

An SMS is a short message, its own name indicates it: Short Message Service. But how many characters are we talking about? What's the maximum you can include in each message? When does it cease to be "short," and a couple of SMS need to be chained together? The answer lies in the technology used to encode the messaging and varies depending on which of the two main options you choose.


160 characters for GSM messages

The characters of the Global System for Mobile (GSM) are what we could call standard: they include letters from A to Z in uppercase and lowercase (including Ñ), numbers from 0 to 9, and a few special characters, commonly used, such as exclamation and question marks, quotation marks, or parentheses. Each of them equates to 1 character, although in GSM7, some count as 2 characters, for example, the euro symbol or brackets.

But have you noticed that there are no accents? Yes, GSM characters do not include them. If you've ever received an SMS without accents, don't think it's a mistake: the sending company has likely chosen to have more characters to better explain their message rather than adhering to spelling rules. If you prefer to add accents, then you have to use UNICODE.


70 characters for UNICODE messages

The good news is that UNICODE characters include more special characters, such as accents or emojis. The downside is that this reduces the accepted SMS limit by over a half when compared to GSM: instead of 160, you have 70 characters. This is because they require more space to store the information.

Keep in mind that you can send two messages instead of just one, and the recipient will see them as one, but the cost will be doubled. Also, there's an exception to the character calculation we've provided in each encoding system, which is when you send more than one SMS. When concatenating messages, the total is slightly reduced: from 160 to 153 for GSM and from 70 to 67 for UNICODE.


Which encoding to choose for your SMS campaigns?

The main variable is the length:

  • If you want to send a message with less than 160 characters and accents don't matter, choose GSM.

    Imagen SMS Charac

  • If spelling is important, you want to include emojis, or your SMS doesn't reach 70 characters because it's a brief notification, then choose UNICODE.

    Imagen SMS Charac

  • If your message exceeds 153 characters, you can choose between various GSM or UNICODE options, depending on whether the total number of messages you want to send includes accents or emojis.

    Imagen SMS Charac

Remember that you can shorten links in SMS campaigns to avoid exceeding character limits, but there are other elements like custom fields that can vary the total and add characters without noticing. For example, the name "Bartholomew" is longer than "Dan"; the city "Lugo" is almost one-third the length of "Guadalajara."

A final note: there's a character limit for sending, which is 5000, or in other words, about 33 SMS of 153 characters in GSM or about 75 in UNICODE.

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