V3: Unicode characters in your SMS message

Orange highlights on characters in your text message

Anne Heath avatar
Written by Anne Heath
Updated over a week ago

Please take a look at the message in the image below.

Do you notice the orange highlighted items: the hand emoji, $, @, and » ?

This article explains why and what it means for your text costs.


Why does this happen?

Text transmission programs package messages in order to send them.

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.

Some characters are treated as more than 1 character.

Regular, 7-bit characters

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.

Unicode characters
These are the characters which can increase the price of the text.

  • Symbols: In our example above, the $ , @, and » are all symbols. Even though the symbol looks like 1 character to us, to the transmission program, the symbol takes 2 or even three characters to send. So, symbols increase your message length and might cause your credit usage to increase.

  • Emojis: In our example above, we used the hand emoji. Again --> 1 symbol to us, but more than one to the transmission program, causing higher text costs.

  • Other characters: There is a long list of characters which can increase your SMS costs. Here is the list published by our carrier.

IN ADDITION...an SMS with Unicode characters can only be up to 70 characters in length instead of the usual 160. This shorter segment length means that the text takes more segments to send, thus increasing your texting costs.

How PastorsLine helps 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 another 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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