02 Oct The Price Of A Smile
Adding some emotion to your text messages could cost you more than you think.
Depending on which punctuation marks you use to construct a happy, sad or angry face, you could be cutting your text message size-limit from 160 to 70 letters, particularly if you use the bullet point mark.
What does this mean? Essentially, by cutting the size-limit of your text messages by using the bullet point or small picture icons (known as emojis or emoticons) you may actually be sending two messages instead of one.
Tony Passauer, a Melbourne man discovered this after including a combination of punctuation marks to end his messages with a big-nosed smiley face (using the bullet point).
“When comparing the bill to my phone, I noticed that single texts were being double charged. I went through the whole bill and found it over and over again. I started noticing a pattern on the messages that were double billed- i had used the bullet point,” he said.
My Passauer discovered the bullet point was splitting one long text message into two 70-character messages.
Investigations by BusinessDay have found that global standards on short-message-service (SMS) are actually responsible for this confusion.
A Telstra spokesman said SMS character limits vary depending on encoding.
“The limit to an SMS message is set by the maximum number of bits an SMS message can carry. This is… 1120 bits. If seven-bit encoding is used then this allows the customer to use the 160 characters per message. In this case the seven-bit alphabet cannot represent the ‘bullet point’ so the default encoding is switched to 16-bit [and] this only allows for 70 characters.”
A spokeswoman for the international body that sets these standards, GSM, said there were only 128 characters for the entirety of the seven-bit range and these were quickly exhausted by special additions like accents.
But consumers get no warning that some symbols or emoticons will cut their texts in half unless they keep a close eye on the character count. And it is still a mystery why iPhones and some Samsung phones include a 16-bit character in their keyboards.
So, if you’re concerned about the cost of your text messages you may want to rethink adding that smileyface.