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Lack of iPhone SMS character counter frustrates users

updated 06:15 pm EDT, Tue September 8, 2009

Apple omits character counter for iPhone SMS

A number of iPhone users, including MacNN reader NyxoLyno "Nick" Cangemi, have voiced frustration with the lack of a character counter when typing SMS messages. The handset's messaging interface does not provide any notification when 160 characters have been exceeded in the communication bubble.

"I would like a 12-inch, buffalo chicken sub on Italian bread, with provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, black olives, and green peppers. If you could pick up some chocolate chip cookies too, that'd be cool," Cangemi wrote in a message.

A manual count of the sub order reveals 215 characters, which is automatically split into two separate messages. Without any visual indication of the number of characters, a feature common even to most low-end handsets, many users will find a discrepancy between the number of messages sent and the total shown on the carrier bill.

"With the wireless industry coming under increasing fire for text messaging rates, it's surprising something as simple as a character counter is missing from Apple's flagship iProduct," Cangemi says. "Free services such as Twitter offer character counters and are proving to be a viable and economic alternative to money-hungry wireless carriers. At least with Twitter, iPhone users can send photos and videos, despite AT&T's delayed deployment of MMS."

Users requiring a specific tally of billed messages can download AT&T's myWireless Mobile app. Although accessing usage information from a separate app may be considered inconvenient by some, it could help to avoid overage charges.

Both Apple and AT&T have been criticized for the lack of full MMS support on the iPhone. The restricted functionality has been blamed on the carrier's efforts to prevent network strain, as iPhone users account for a disproportionately high volume of data traffic. AT&T expects to enable the service later this month.

[Images courtesy of NyxoLyno "Nick" Cangemi]

by MacNN Staff





  1. Geobunny

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I'm confused

    I bought my first iPhone in June this year and one of the first things I noticed was the lack of a character counter in the message app. The phone's been out for two years, how is this only just coming to light now?

    It doesn't really bother me as I've got 1000 txts (or 250 MMS, or any combination thereof) included in my monthly allowance, an I'm unlikely to go anywhere near it, but it does seem like an odd omission.

  1. DiabloConQueso

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Let's sue! Who's in with me? ;)

  1. davesmall

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Why sign up for SMS?

    SMS is a rip off. What's the benefit?

    The cell phone service providers, like AT&T, are profiteering at your expense. Opt out of SMS and save $10 per month on your bill. Don't sign up for MMS. Use Email. It's better and it is included.

  1. Eriamjh

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Simple things...

    ...are missing from many of Apple's SW.

  1. Marook

    Joined: Dec 1969



    1: Twitter can't combine multible messages into 'one', so they HAVE to provide a counter!

    2: It would be more usable to show the number of messages used to send the SMS. Who gives a s*** about char count. Also, using non-ascii chars will use more than one char pr. charactor, så a char-counter is not that useful.

    3: Why the h... is there a 'AT&T MMS Rant' included in a story about the iPhone not having a SMS char counter???? Come on US people - the rest of the world have had MMS from day one of the 3.0 release - we don't care about the one US carrier!

  1. MhzDoesMatter

    Joined: Dec 1969


    comment title

    Considering I think you can say this is a US Centric site I don't take issue with the ATT comment for that. Just that it really did have no bearing on the story. H**l, the story has no bearing on anything else so I'm not sure why thats surprising.

    Really. SMS Character count?

  1. c4rlob

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Oh c***!

    I NEVER knew this! That explains a lot. I figured it counted as 2 messages for the person receiving the text if their carrier split the message. But I assumed on an iPhone plan, one bubble meant one message. This is ABSOLUTELY grounds for a class action against both AT&T for failure to conspicuously state this and Apple for misleading interface design.

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