Emoji on SMS Turns 160-character Limit to 70

Did you know that the moment you include an emoji in your SMS messages, the allowable character limit will shoot down from 160 to 70 per text? If not, read along.

My current phone plan has 100 FREE text messages, which I can send basically to anyone for as long as I keep my character count at the allowable 160 characters per text message. But, surprise surprise, my bill last month blew up to 1250 PHP. Hold your horses, let me explain it in detail. My bill states that I got an excess 250 text messages on top of my free 100, which means that I will be paying additional 250 Pesos on top of my fixed data plan 1000 Pesos (Note: 1 text message = 1 Philippine Peso). For some this may resort to “hayaan na nga, additional 250 pesos lang naman yan” syndrome, but I am different.


Yes, you can call me “kuripot” for all I care, but I just had to know. What happened? This is the time, when I got really curious.

You see, I am not much of a text addict. All my communications with friends and family are either personal or through facetime, imessage, line or fb messenger apps. All of which are free, because of my internet data plan. I only use my 100 free text messages for business-related purposes, which I’m sure won’t go beyond the 100 free texts.


Instead of calling up and ranting at my network provider to give me an explanation about this occurrence, what I did first was to investigate on my own. At first, I thought that my provider is billing me for sending messages through iPhone’s imessage. We all know that sending text through imessage, for as long as you’re connected through the internet, won’t incur additional charges for it’s supposedly free! Still, I asked my dear friend to transfer our conversations from imessage to line app. This is only for the meantime while I’m still figuring the root cause of the issue. You know, we’ve got to pinpoint and investigate all possible causes.

Research & Testing

While I was typing an SMS yesterday, I suddenly noticed that the 160-character limit changed to 70. Here are some screenshots which proves my point:

  1. Below is screenshot of a text message without a smiley or emoji. As you can see on the its upper right portion, its character count is at 158 over 160. This means that the message below is considered as 1 text message, which is good. We’re on track.Text Message without Emoticon
  2. The next screenshot has an emoji. The character count now is 160 over 70. This means that the message below is considered as 3 text messages (160 divided by 70 = 2.29 or 3). And, it happened just because you added one simple smiley face. You see, the character count of the smiley face is just 2 counts. But, for some reason, it shortens its allowable character limit to 70.
    Text Message with Emoticon or Smiley
  3. The screenshot below is just to test if the character limit will shorten further if I added more emoji. As shown, only the character count was changed to 164, but its limit stays at 70. Therefore, this message is still considered as 3 text messages.
    Text Message with Multiple Emoticon or Smiley
  4. Lastly, of course, I need to find a way how to go about this. I don’t want wasting 2 extra text count for just a single smiley. I then checked if the self-made smiley faces or emoticons using the characters: colon and closing parenthesis, will have a different result. As you can see below, its character count is 160 over 160. This text message is considered as 1.Text Message with Emoticon or Smiley Low Graphic

Upon checking the web, this setup has been around for quite sometime now. The article that I found which explains it is dated on year 2011. Imagine, I’ve been sending text messages with smileys everytime. And, I found about it just now?! Anyway here’s the article for more info: Why does using emoji reduce my SMS character limit to 70?


After figuring this out, I immediately shared it to my family and friends who I know is fond of using smiley faces on their text messages. This maybe a petty way to save on phone bills. But, hey, every peso counts! You may want to share this to your friends too. Below are the shareable links or buttons for FB, TWITTER and etc.