Chris Hunter’s technology column: How to stop ‘smiley’s being charged as picture messaging

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Thanks for all the feedback for the first column I did last week. This week I’m covering an issue I have been asked about a number of times over the weekend.

“I’ve heard that smileys are being charged as a picture message (MMS) is that correct?”

The smiley was first used back in the 1880’s believe it or not and in the 1980’s they were recommended by a user in the early days of internet activity that something was a joke and they just grew in popularity.

All they are is a combination of punctuation marks such as a colon and a close bracket to show a happy face :)

As sending text messages took off, so did the use of the smiley.

Smartphones will now have a set of pictures (or emoticons as they are often called) like this one, for you to use in place of the boring looking old fashioned ones.

This is where the problem stems from.

Most smartphones will show an emoticon, but actually send the text based smiley :) that the phone displays as the emoticon. This can be why the smiley face on your screen is different to the one on your friends screen BUT (and we all love a BUT) some will send the actual emoticon instead, which is actually a little picture so this will be classed as a picture message (MMS)

You need to check what format your message is in before you send it to ensure you don’t get charged for an MMS you didn’t want. The easiest way is to first look to see if you can find the character counter. This doesn’t always show until you start to get to the 160 character limit of a text. The other way I use is to add in the emoticon and watch the screen for words along the line of “converting to MMS”. This may seem obvious but if you aren’t paying close attention as you type, it is possible you could miss this and carry on typing away unaware that you are now going to be sending a chargeable MMS.

I hope this could stop you getting charges that you weren’t expecting.

I will be doing my best to answer questions that you can email in to me at with the word Guru in the subject line or make an appointment with me by going to and clicking on ‘book an o2 guru’ and then searching for Mansfield, or another store if that suits you better.