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What is SMS?

A man sending a text message

SMS stands for short message service and is also called texting or text messaging. SMS messages or ‘texts’ are usually sent from one mobile phone to another, but can also be sent from some home phones. It is a quick and convenient way of sending a short message to someone.

WebWise Team | 10th October 2012

Just about every mobile phone has the ability to send SMS messages. Many of the more advanced phones can do much more, including picture and video messaging.

You can also send texts to landline phones – an automated voice reads the message out to the person receiving it!

How do I compose a text message?

Basic mobile phones offer two ways of writing texts: keying in each letter individually (sometimes called ‘multi-tap’ mode) and ‘predictive’ text. Most mobile phone keypads have only 12 buttons and cram three letters onto each button. If you press the ‘4’ key once, for example, you get a ‘G’, if you press it twice you get an ‘H’, and three times you get an ‘I’. Multi-tap mode is therefore much more laborious, but can be a good way of learning to text.

Predictive text allows you to cut down on the number of key presses. It predicts the word you want to write, as you are writing it. The phone learns which words you use most often, and adds any new words you use to its memory.

Newer smartphones have more options for text input. You can get a phones with a full physical ‘QWERTY’ keypad - in other words, with one key for every letter. You might find this easier. Other phones will have a large touchscreen that can display a keyboard on it. It really is just a matter of individual preference.

Picture and video messages

More and more mobile phones are now equipped with digital cameras so you can take photos, or even little videos, and instantly send them by text to your friends and family!

However, do bear in mind that pictures and video messages will be more expensive than a simple text message.

Text alerts

Texts have many uses besides exchanging messages with friends.

Newsflashes, score alerts for sports fans, share price alerts and games can be sent to your phone. You sign up by dialling a premium-rate phone number or sending a text to the given number with a message like ‘START’. Unless the service is provided as part of pre-paid deal, you should expect to pay a charge.

  • Mobile phone companies can send settings to your phone via text.
  • You might get an appointment reminder via SMS from your dentist or doctor
  • Taking part in interactive competitions and TV shows via text is rarely free.

Ring tones and wallpaper

You do not have to use a ring tone supplied on your phone. You can buy a ring tone online from one of the competing providers and receive it by SMS. Likewise with the so-called ‘desktop’ (or ‘wallpaper’) – the picture on your phone’s screen.

Again, do remember that you will have to pay a premium rate for these services, and take care to ensure that the site is legitimate.


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WebWise Team

WebWise was first launched in 1998 and since then has helped people of all ages to learn about and love the internet.

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