5 Things You Never Knew About SMS

5 Things You Never Knew About SMS

August 21, 2013
SMS stands for Short Messaging Service, but most of us refer to it as texting. Technically though SMS is the system that delivers texts, just as FM is the radio signal that delivers radio stations. Here are five interesting factoids about SMS, you may not have known; they range from explaining SMS, to the different lengths of SMS messages and how big brother may use SMS to spy on you.

5 Things You Never Knew About SMS

1. SMS is pretty popular

SMS is the most popular method of sending data in the world. There are 3.5 billion active texters worldwide, which amounts to 78% of all mobile phone subscribers.

2. Not all SMS messages are equal

Different languages have different text lengths. For English speakers, it’s 160 characters. Sure this is longer than Tweets - which have a paltry maximum of 140 characters. But spare a thought for other alphabets. Cyrillic (the funny Russian one), Arabic and others are limited to 70 characters.

3. Not all SMS messages are short

Some networks allow concatenated messages. These are actually many messages that are split apart and put back together on the receiver’s phone. In theory, they can consist of up to 255 separate SMS messages (a whopping 39,015 characters) although most mobile phones can only handle up to 3 concatenated messages.

4. Your phone is constantly checking in to see if you’ve got a new SMS

There’s no need to check your phone for text messages. It does that for you. All mobile phones have a control channel, which is constantly at work, sending and receiving data, When you get a text, it will have come from your friend’s phone to the short message service center (acronym fans would call it a SMSC), from there to a tower, and from there to your phone via the control channel.

5. There are some SMS messages you never know about

If you’re a conspiracy theorist, you’ll be delighted to know that the control channel also facilitates a silent SMS, also known as a stealthy ping. This is a message that mobile companies can send (normally when asked by the police) to locate someone via their mobile phone. The owner of the handset isn’t alerted to this message in any way - so you don’t even know big brother’s pinging you.