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Mythbusting The 160 Text Character Limit

by Miranda Palter | September 28, 2016
Mythbusting The 160 Text Character Limit

“How long can my text messages be?” We hear that question a lot. We answer all of your questions about text character limits here.

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. After the proposal was accepted, 160 characters became the standard for text messages.

Why can I no longer send 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 the 160 text character limit?

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. Navigating the 160 text character limit should be a breeze.

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