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What are Unicode characters and why are they relevant to SMS?

Last Updated: Jun 24, 2013 11:46AM AEST

What is a Unicode Standard?

Unicode standard is a type of character encoding system designed for consistency in the computing industry. The unicode system is able to handle large variety of characters beyond the basic Latin alphabet (A-Z), in order to support a wide range of languages and technical symbols.

What is a Unicode Message? 

A unicode message is a message that is encoded using the Unicode standard. Any message that contains even a single Unicode character must be encoded in this way in order to display properly the Unicode characters properly. 

How many characters can a unicode message contain?

A single Unicode character requires more space (2 bytes) compared to standard GSM encoded characters (1 byte). As a result, the total length of a Unicode message is shorter than a message with standard encoding. A Unicode message can contain up to 70 characters before it must be split into multiple parts.

The limitations for multi-part messages are a little different: a single SMS in a multi-part Unicode message can hold up to 67 characters. The three characters are used up by the information that mobile phones then use to join message parts together in the correct order.

Including Unicode characters by mistake can lead to multi-part messages being sent unintentionally. For help on this topic and some advice on how to avoid it from happening, please refer to the article Why is my message split into multiple parts?

Notes relating to Unicode messaging

  • Unicode support is carrier limited. Unfortunately, due to such carrier limitations, we are not currently able to support Unicode messages to the USA.
  • If you are submitting messages using the HTTP API, Unicode messages need to be triple encoded in order to be interpreted correctly.

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