An Apple bug means iPhone users could be charged more… for being grammatically correct

If you’re a punctuation pedant when it comes to texting, beware. A bug in Apple’s iOS 11 operating system means if you include an apostrophe in an SMS message, your character count will be slashed from 160 to just 70.

This issue was first flagged by MoneySaver David, who found that when sending an SMS message (NOT an iMessage), the allowed character count drops significantly as soon as he added an apostrophe (‘) within the body of the text. As a result, he noticed he’d been charged for sending two texts rather than one.

He told us: “Customers are being charged more money for being grammatically correct when sending text messages – for example, if you use the apostrophe in ‘it’s’, it will reduce the character allowances. This has caught me out several times.”

Since then, we’ve also seen the bug mentioned on several Apple forums.

Why are apostrophes proving costly?

We’ve checked with Apple and it’s told us this is a known bug affecting its ‘Smart Punctuation’ feature, which is a system that’s turned on by default and automatically swaps some forms of punctuation with other forms that may be more suitable (for example, two short dashes in a row are converted into a longer dash).

The exact reason why this makes apostrophes drop the character count is unclear. But one possible explanation – here comes the science bit – is that when the feature is switched on, the use of the apostrophe makes the phone send the characters of the text encoded in a 16-bit format, rather than the normal seven-bit. This means that a single text can carry fewer characters.

Before the apostrophe is inserted, the character count is 160.

After the apostrophe is inserted, the count drops to 70.


What this means in non-tech speak is that if you use an apostrophe, you’re more likely to go over your character limit when you send a text, and more likely to send two texts rather than one.

Of course, in reality, most people have a high text allowance in their monthly bundles and so it’s unlikely to lead to them racking up a huge bill. But if you’re on pay-as-you-go, say, or out of your allowance abroad, you could notice the pennies racking up (for example if you’re in Chile on EE you’d typically pay 60p per text).

Apple says it’s aware of the bug and corrected it in its next iOS update, 11.2.5, which will be released shortly. But in the meantime there’s a simple fix if you’re a stickler for grammar but don’t want to send truncated texts.

How to avoid being charged for multiple texts

The solution right now if you’re using iOS 11 is simply to turn ‘Smart Punctuation’ off.

You can do this by going to Settings > General > Keyboards, and then turning ‘Smart Punctuation’ off.

It’s also worth turning on your character count, so when you’re typing a text message you can see when you’re approaching the maximum number of permitted characters.

There are also other ways to message without using any of your data or texts.

If you’re on Wi-Fi, try using iMessage rather than sending a standard text if you’re writing to other Apple users, or using an alternative messaging system such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

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