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Why using emoji on certain phones can be bad for you… and how to do it right, if you must

Published Feb 6th, 2015 8:30PM EST
SMS vs. MMS Emoji Costs

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Using only actual words for communicating via text is no longer enough, particularly because current smartphones come lots of fun emoji that let us better express ourselves while messaging. But even though sending emoji is very common among smartphone users, some people have found out the hard way that too much emoji can be dangerous… for your wallet.

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It’s not your fault actually, as the devices to blame are “older” devices, as CNET describes the 2013 Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 — among other truly older Samsung handsets — which might not be able to properly handle emoji in SMS messages. This can ultimately lead to increased texting costs.

The publication quotes a Daily Record story about one Paula Cochrance, an EE customer in the U.K. who received bills from the carrier amounting to almost £1,200 for a four-month period, even though she’s on a £30.99 monthly plan.

It turns out that each emoji she sent was handled as an MMS or picture message, which cost her £1 each time, because picture messages are not included in her plan, though unlimited texting is.

EE so far refused to reimburse Cochrance, who’s now seeking justice from the UK’s communication ombudsman.

CNET says that Apple, HTC, Nokia and Sony phones shouldn’t convert emoji texts into MMS texts, so users who own smartphones from these OEMs shouldn’t encounter similar charges.

However, buyers who have certain Samsung devices, including the Galaxy S, S2, S3 and S4, the Note 3 and the Galaxy Ace, should make sure they visit the Messages settings (by going to Settings and then Text messages), then select UniCode instead of automatic to prevent unexpected charges.

The even simpler method you could use to avoid this particular risk is choosing a different messaging app than the phone’s default messages app, such as WhatsApp or Facebook’s Messenger, for your emoji-filled texting needs. However, these apps require data plans to work, so make sure you have a good one.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.