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Emojis and SMS APIs. What gives? Here's how to do it.

What about emojis within SMS using an A2P messaging platform? Is it possible?

Short answer: Yes.

Businesses aren’t restricted to pure text within SMS messaging platforms like ours. Businesses can communicate with their customers using modern hieroglyphics (aka “emojis) if they’d like.

Imaging getting a message that says:

Instead of getting the same old: “Hi! I’m John from DHL. I’ll deliver your parcel in 1 hour.” 

That’s pretty hip, especially if you’re a company that really knows its demographic. 


What’s the long answer? Well, it’s not as easy as sending a plain-text SMS.

Most importantly, using an emoji in an SMS message reduces the character length limit to 70 characters (from 160,) which can damper the SMS budget if you actually need the 160 characters to convey a single message. To understand why, you must understand the limitations of Unicode standards, which Uku presented in his blog about SMS budgeting. If you need more characters and would still like to use emojis, you can, but you’ll need to send it in multiple parts.

Multipart SMS messages can be tricky, though. Most smartphones and network carriers can handle multipart SMS messages and will wait for all of them to arrive, putting them in order, before displaying the message to the user. Yet I was with Sprint in the United States for quite some time and I recall receiving multipart text messages out of order –which I’ve learned is due to Sprint not supporting concatenated SMS.

The next hurdle revolves around smartphone penetration in the markets in which you communicate via SMS. If the handsets don’t support emojis, they won’t get emojis. The recipient will be left wondering what you’re trying to say in that weird concoction of text-like symbols.

Finally, SMS uses text-based standards (you know –UCS-2 and GSM 03.38) and an emoji is considered a character. Yet you need to get that character into the message somehow. The simplest way to do it is to copy and paste the emoji into the message (whether in our dashboard or through API calls.) Also, Macs have an emoji-board built into Safari, but if you’re on a PC, add an emoji keyboard extension to Chrome and you’re all set.

So, if you’re sending SMS notifications in a place like Sweden and you don’t need more than 70 characters in a message (or don’t mind the extra costs,) emoji all you want –your customers might enjoy it. ;-)

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