Mobile & Cell Phone Information

SMS 101 - Short Message Service Explained

Short Message Service (SMS) is a quick and simple way to communicate short messages via mobile phones, handheld devices, and increasingly even landline telephones. Commonly known as text messages, SMSes, or even texts the practice has spread rapidly throughout the world, evident by the fact that 500 billion such messages were sent in the last year alone. The practice has its popularity due in great part to its convenience and cost effectiveness. For example, a typical text message placed in the US at USD 0.05 per message is priced at just 10 to 20% that of a voice call. Such savings have made it the most popular form of communication in many countries, and the practice is quickly gaining in popularity in the United States as well.

This quick rise in American's usage of SMS is due in part to the publicity the practice received through television shows like The American Idol, where viewers 'texted' their votes in for their favorite singer. This initial exposure gave many Americans their first taste of the convenience and ease of use with SMS.

Texting involves using the keypad on a telephone or other device to spell out letters and then words. Then when a message is completed the writer sends the message, much like an instant message or e-mail to the recipient. While some devices now have actual qwerty keyboards the vast majority of SMS capable devices and telephones simply use the 12 key numerical keypad (0-9 plus * and #). By pressing a certain key in quick succession different letters are made. For example, pressing the '1' key once produces the letter 'a'. Pressing it twice gives the letter 'b', while three times gives 'c'. The other numbers (2-9) work the same way while the other keys (*, 0, and #) are usually reserved for creating spaces and punctuation. While texting does require a bit of initial practice, within a few minutes users are able to quickly spell out and send short messages.

Most SMS services such as those transmitted to a telephone, have a limit as to how many characters can be transmitted per message. This number can vary from service to service, however many allow for 140 or 160 characters. This limitation has caused users to develop what has become known as Txt Speak. These are a set of commonly used abbreviations and word substitutes that not only reduce the number of characters necessary for conveying a word or message, but also make SMSing or Text Messaging an even faster and more convenient process. For example, the number '4' is commonly used to replace the word 'for', and 'gr8' replaces the word 'great'. Some individuals also choose to omit spaces between words by using capital letters instead, such as 'TextingIsFun' instead of 'Texting is fun'. A relatively new phenomenon that many texting devices are now incorporating is Predictive text software. This gives your phone the technology to anticipate what word you are going to write even before you finish writing, drastically reducing the time it takes for you to text messages. For example, you may type the letters 'ste' and the software, which is built into the device, will have predicted the word 'stereo' for you.

SMS is a technology whose convenience and cost effectiveness have already made it an integral part of communication in many countries. In recent years, it has been more widely publicized in the United States and as a consequence its popularity is increasing quickly. This growth is not surprising, however, due to the many benefits that Short Message Service (SMS) brings to communication.

Jim Sherman writes about interesting topics such as SMS Call. Learn more at

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