Signal Vine Blog: Text Me Back

Mythbusting: The 160 Character Limit

Posted by Miranda Palter on September 28, 2016
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“How long can my text messages be?” We’ve been hearing that question a lot, and as experts in higher education texting, we want to set the record straight. All of your questions about text messaging lengths and limitations are answered here!
 
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Why is there a 160 character limit?
You can thank a man named Friedhelm Hillebrand for that. In 1986, Hillebrand used his position as a chairman within the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) group to push forward a proposal to require all cellular carriers to support “short messaging service” (SMS). Part of the proposal included a 160 character limit for each text message based on Hillebrand’s findings that most postcards and other communications already fall into a range of 150 to 160 characters. The proposal was accepted, and 160 characters became the standard for text messages.

Why can I send longer messages on my iPhone?
Most smartphones today will “thread” messages by automatically joining multiple 160-character parts together to display one extra-long message on the receiving phone. If the receiving phone is not a smartphone, the messages will be not be shown as one “threaded” message; instead, they’ll display as 160-character messages that might be broken up in the middle of a word or sentence.

What’s the benefit of 160 characters?
For students, the brevity of text messaging has a huge impact. Sending a text message that’s short and sweet is more likely to captivate a student’s attention and prompt action than a longer message or email. Send a message that’s too long, and students will start to tune you out.

What if I need to send more than 160 characters?
The size of a text message isn’t something that texting platforms can change. Don’t trust a platform that claims to have a higher character limit - that just means that your message will be fractured in the middle of a word or sentence when it’s received on a student’s phone. You’ll likely end up paying extra for those additional messages since so many texting providers charge by the message. Instead, simply send two separate text messages! It’s that easy. If you can’t communicate the necessary information through one or two text messages, we suggest using your 160 characters to set up a time to call that student.

You shouldn’t have to consider cost when it comes to sending a text that will help a student. Our approach to text messaging encourages two-way engagement, so you never pay per message. Texting with students should be easy, engaging, and unlimited for maximum impact on students and staff.
 
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Topics: Tips & Tricks, Best Practices, Texting, Character Limit, Mythbusting

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