Why do emoji on Android take up more than one character?

This issue only affects SMS. When sending a standard SMS message, emoji takes up more than one character. This is related to the way the character is coded, and is the way all standard SMS works with emoji.

If you are seeing your characters per SMS decreasing when using emoji, it is because SMS does not have a 160 character limit, it has a 140 bytes limit. Usually messages are encoded using GSM 03.38, which uses 7 bits per character so you end up with a 160 character limit.

When you write emoji your SMS app most likely switches to using UTF-16, which uses 2 or 4 bytes per character and which gets you an upper limit of 70 characters. If you only use characters that are encoded as 4 bytes, you can at most write 35 characters. The upper limit can be even lower if you use combining characters (for example diacritic marks).


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