Segments in initial messages and replies for SMS texts

Understanding Text Message Segments for SMS

Did you know that long text messages can sometimes break into multiple texts for some recipients? This happens because text messages are sent in segments, which are blocks of encoded characters. The length of a segment is determined by how much data each character uses when translated into readable text.

Segment Lengths

The default length for an SMS message is 160 characters. Regular characters, also known as "7-bit encoded," count as one character each. However, some special characters are encoded differently and count as two characters in a segment. 

Using fancier characters and emojis will reduce the segment length further because explaining these characters through the messaging environment requires more data. Messages with these characters or emojis will limit each segment to a maximum of 70 characters.

Most modern cell phone carriers will reassemble multi-part text messages into one long text. However, older phones and some carriers may deliver these segments separately, potentially out of order. Some carriers even use indicators like (1/3), (2/3), (3/3), which consume an additional 7 characters.

You can use external tools like this SMS Length Calculator to analyze your message and estimate its character usage. 

Best Practices for Length

For the best user experience with your contacts, we highly recommend keeping your initial messages shorter to encourage conversation. Very long initial messages can impact deliverability by reducing throughput. We strongly advise against using links, especially link shorteners like or tiny.url, in your initial messages. For more tips on initial message creation, click here.

Be wary of using emojis and other special characters in long scripts. Your target contacts will also appreciate it!

Keep in mind that recommended replies also have segments. For tips on recommended replies, click here.

Preview feature for SMS messages

ThruText's Segment Preview Feature allows you to estimate the segments in your SMS messages. Please note that the length of custom attributes (e.g., texter's first or last name) in your script may affect this estimate. Nevertheless, this feature provides valuable insight into your message's length and how it will appear to contacts who receive message segments.

In the following example, the estimator shows that the current message uses one segment and has used 126 out of the 160 characters for that segment. This means there is space for approximately 34 more characters before the start of the next segment.  

NOTE - On MMS approved use cases, the above "Browse Media Library" option will show for you to add media (a picture or GIF) to your initial message. Adding media will remove the segment count and revise the character limit for the message being sent.

Required Variables

As seen in the example above, there are required variables for inserting your Organization Display Name and Opt-Out Language. Please check out our guide Organization Display Name and Opt Out Language for more information

Remember that required variables count towards your character limit and impact the message segments. To make edits to these variables while crafting your initial message:

  • Click "Campaign Details" at the top of the page
  • Adjust the length of your required variables.
  • Click "Save" at the bottom of the page
  • Continue editing your script in the "Initial Message" step of campaign creation.

Monitoring Segment Usage

You can track the number of segments your organization has sent through various means:

  • Check your campaign and account-level exports.
    • Our Export Types article details which exports contain segment data and where to find that column in the csv.
  • View the "Segments Sent Per Month" in your Usage Analytics.
  • Quickly check your ThruText Dashboard to see this month's segment count.
  • If you're an admin on a primary account, you can also see your network's segments on the Subaccount Usage page.

Please send any questions or concerns to!