The general issue

Due to the way in which text messages are transmitted, the text characters have to be broken up (or packaged) into sections. Different characters take up different amounts of memory (or space). When the transmission program looks at each text character, what might look like 1 character to us might look like 2 or more to the text transmission program.

Why are some characters treated as more than 1 character?

It depends on the group which the character belongs to.

There are three groups of text characters:

Regular, 7-bit characters which are counted as 1 character

Regular characters do not create any problems. An SMS with only regular characters can be up to 160 characters in length for a cost of 1 credit.

Symbols which are counted as 2 characters

Symbols are not problematic, per se. However, since 1 symbol character could be counted as 2 or 3, symbols increase your message length and might cause your credit usage to increase.

Characters which force Unicode encoding

Unicode characters are problematic. For the same 1 credit, an SMS with Unicode characters can only be up to 70 characters in length instead of the usual 160.

How PastorsLine is helping you identify Unicode characters and save credits

I. On our side

When your SMS message is sent to the PastorsLine API, the API evaluates whether or not the message contains Unicode characters.

If there are Unicode characters present, we use a "Smart Encoding" option to replace Unicode characters with "regular" ones. We do this for as many Unicode characters as we can.

II. On your side

Even before we see the message, before you click Send, we want to point out these Unicode characters to you, so you can decide whether or not you want to use them.

When you type a text, PastorsLine will color the Unicode characters orange.

Let's look at an example...

We added some snowflakes to our message. They are cute for sure, but they are costing us another credit.

We know this because when we remove them, our message only costs 1 credit.

In case you want more details about Unicode characters...

Unicode characters in your SMS message cause message splitting.


These characters include characters from different alphabets, symbols, emojis, as well as some punctuation commonly created by word processing applications, including “long dashes” and “curly apostrophes”.

While Unicode encoding allows the display of a wider range of characters, it’s also more memory intensive than the GSM 3.38 character encoding which SMS uses by default. This means that messages which contain any Unicode can only be 70 characters in length, not 160 like a normal SMS message.

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