Text Message Segment Guide


What is an SMS message segment?

All phone carriers internationally measure text messages in character batches called segments. Segments are typically 160 characters (GSM-7 encoding) or 70 characters (UCS-2 encoding), based on the encoding type which we will explain below. A common reason for encoding to change is when a user copies text from another system or word processor and pastes the text into a text message body. Often, unknown unicode characters are pasted into the text box and the encoding changes.

If you attach a media file to your message (audio file, vcard, or image), it is converted to an MMS which has up to a 1,600 character limit (if GSM-7 encoded) and about 1,000 characters if you add an emoji or other unicode character (which makes the message UCS-2 encoded).

Generally, most messages use the standard of GSM-7 encoding and have up to 160 characters per SMS segment.

How message length influences your messaging cost*

  • 0 – 160 characters – 1 segment and charged as a single SMS message
  • 161 - 320 characters – 2 segments and charged as two SMS messages
  • 361 - 480 characters – 3 segment and charged as three SMS messages
  • 481 - 640 characters – 4 segments and charged as four SMS messages
  • 641 - 800 characters – 5 segments and charged as five SMS messages
  • 801 - 960 characters – 6 segments and charged as six SMS messages
  • 961 - 1,120 characters – 7 segments and charged as seven SMS messages
  • 1,121 - 1.280 characters – 8 segments and charged as eight SMS messages
  • 1,281 - 1,440 characters – 9 segments and charged as nine SMS messages
  • 1,441 - 1,600 characters – 10 segments and charged as ten SMS messages
    ($0.02 to $0.04 per SMS segment in US/Canada, depending on your pricing plan)

*Assume GSM-7 encoding

How adding a media (image, vcard, or audio file) influences your messaging cost**

  • 0 - 1,600 characters – 1 segment and charged as a single MMS message
    ($0.03 to $0.05 per MMS segment in US/Canada, depending on your pricing plan)

**Assume GSM-7 encoding

It is almost always best from a cost perspective to include a media file to any messages over 160 characters OR over 70 characters that also include an Emoji or other Unicode character.

What are common UNICODE characters?

These are commonly-used characters that will change your message encoding type from GSM-7 to Unicode (UCS-2), which will lower your segment character count from 160 to 70 characters per segment. Additionally, each Emoji counts as 4 to 8 characters and not just one.


😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😁 😂 😃 😄 😅 😆 😇 😈 😉 😐 😑 😒 😓 😔 😕 😖 😗 😘 😙 😠 😡 😢 😣 , etc.

Other (Non-Emoji) Unicode Characters:

¢ ¦ ¨ © ª « ¬ ® ¯ ° ± ¹ ² ³ ´ µ ¶ · ¸ ¹ º » ¼ ½ ¾ À Á Â Ã È Ê Ë Ì Í Î Ï Ð Ò Ó Ô Õ × Ù Ú Û Ý Þ á â ã ç ê ë í î ï ð ó ô õ ÷ ú û ý þ ÿ

What does message encoding mean?

The SMS length is calculated by first looking at each character in your message to identify it’s encoding type and the overall message length. Based on the encoding type and message length, the total number of segments is determined.

The two types of SMS encoding used by EngageCRM are:

  • GSM-7 Encoding – GSM7 is the encoding type most commonly used and supports more than 128 common letters and symbols. Each segment is limited to 160 characters maximum.
  • UCS-2 Encoding – UCS2 uses 16 bits to encode each character. Each segment is limited to 70 characters maximum (this is the encoding for your entire message when you add an emoji to a message).

How will my text message be encoded?

When you send SMS messages with EngageCRM, we will automatically use the most compact encoding possible. If you only use GSM-7 characters (standard text characters), your messages will be encoded at GSM-7. If any non-GSM-7 characters are detected/included, your entire message will be encoded at UCS-2, which limits each message segment to 70 characters each.

For example: If you have a 200 character message you are sending, this is what the cost would be, assuming $0.02 per SMS segment and $0.03 per MMS segment:

  • As a standard GSM-7 text it would be two segments (160 + 40) and cost $0.04.
  • By adding just ONE single Emoji, it would cause that 200 character text to now be sent in 3 segments (70 + 70 + 60) and cost $0.06.
  • If you were to add an image, vcard, or audio file to that same message it would then be sent as one MMS and drop the cost to $0.03.

  • It is worth repeating: in most cases it is best from a cost perspective to include a media file to any GSM-7 encoded messages over 160 characters OR any UCS-2 encoded messages (include one or more Emojis) over 70 characters.

    How does EngageCRM bill SMS messages?

    • The length of your message in segments
    • Your messaging plan (price per SMS segment or price per MMS segment)
    • The destination country of the recipient