What are EMS messages?

This post was written by Jeroen on February 13, 2009
Posted Under: SMS
This entry is part 5 of 17 in the series Sending out an SMS

EMS stands for Enhance Message Services. EMS messages are just SMS messages with a twist.

EMS messages make use of the User Data Header to add some meta data to the SMS message being sent. This meta data is separate from the actual text and devices that don’t understand some or any of the EMS features will easily skip over them and just render the text.

The uses of EMS are many:

EMS lets you group a number of SMS messages into one large message

Normal SMS messages can have 140 octets of payload. GSM-7 is a 7 bit alphabet, so when encoding text in the default GSM-7 alphabet you can send 160 characters (septets) in a single message. EMS lets you add meta data that says ‘this is message 1 of 3’. If the receiving device understands this EMS feature it will wait for all parts to arrive and render them as one big message. If it doesn’t the device will show the parts as individual messages. See combining SMS messages for more details.

EMS lets you add some basic formatting to your messages

Through EMS you can control:

  • Alignment of text (choices: left, center, right)
  • Font size (choices: normal, large or small)
  • Font style (options: bold, italic, underlined and/or strikethrough)
  • Text color (choose from 16 colors)
  • Background color (choose from 16 colors)

More details on how to achieve this in the post “Text formatting with EMS“.

EMS lets you add sounds to your message

You can choose from 10 predefined sounds like ‘chimes’, ‘ding’, ‘ta-da’, ‘claps’ or create your own sound using the iMelody format.

EMS lets you add pictures to your message

You can choose from 15 predefined smileys like ‘I am glad’, ‘I am laughing’, ‘In love’, ‘I am winking’ or create your own image using a bit array representing black and white pixels .

Other  features available through EMS

These are less frequently used, but you can add

  • Animations
  • Scalable vector graphics
  • Embedded vCards
  • Embedded vCalendar items

Again EMS is designed so that devices that don’t understand EMS at all will just ignore all the EMS features. Even if a device supports EMS, it is unlikely to support every option available. The design of EMS lets devices also easily skip unsupported features.

If you want to send EMS messages using a GSM modem, you’ll have to use PDU mode. Note that if you use a phone as an SMS modem, the phone used for sending doesn’t need to understand EMS. The PDU mode lets you format messages in any way possible without relying on any other feature of the modem in use.

In a future post I’ll construct some EMS messages to show you how it works in detail.

A good overview of SMS, EMS and MMS is available in the following book:

Mobile Messaging Technologies and Services: SMS, EMS and MMS

Series NavigationSending a flash SMS messageCombining SMS messages
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Reader Comments

Hi, could you post how to construct an EMS to send a picture?

Thanks in advance.

Written By Gustavo on March 11th, 2009 @ 8:22 pm

Hi Gustavo,

With EMS you can only send very primitive pictures, I was planning to talk a little about that. Pictures taken by your phone’s camera are usually sent via MMS. This is a somewhat longer story, but I intend to get to this too, eventually.

Thanks for reading this blog. I’d appreciate if you could publish/post a link…


Written By Jeroen on March 16th, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

Hi Jeroen

Thats exactly what I need. Primitive pictures. I have successfully send EMS to some brands (Sony Ericsson, Alcatel, Samsung) but the same EMS it’s not well received by Nokia phones and other brands.

Is the UDH different depending of the model of the cellphone?

Written By Gustavo on April 1st, 2009 @ 7:27 pm


The UDH IEs are standard. Some manufacturers support more EMS features than others, but when they support them they are the same. In my personal experience the most complete EMS support is provided by Sony-Ericsson. I have a Nokia N70 that doesn’t support any of EMS text formatting IEs. So I am not surprised that that Nokia doesn’t support EMS pictures either.

Nokia has some proprietary features published as “Smart Messaging Specification 3.0.0” on the Nokia Forum. They support a different mechanism to send pictures (or operator logos). I haven’t tried any of those features myself.

Written By Jeroen on April 8th, 2009 @ 9:02 am

This is nice basic intro about the EMS.i appreciate the effort. thanks to the writer of this article

Written By Faheem on April 23rd, 2009 @ 6:50 am

how can convert an EMS message to a PDE file?

Written By vineesh on July 22nd, 2009 @ 10:30 am


Did you mean PDF file? I am not sure what you mean by a PDE file…

I am not aware of any tools that convert EMS messages into any other markup (like HTML or PDF). Do you want to build your own EMS renderer?


Written By Jeroen on July 22nd, 2009 @ 10:35 am

Hi Jeroen,
Can you please tell me how to save EMS messages from my Samsung
U900 SOUL phone to my PC? I can save SMS messages useing Samsung PC Studio 3 no problem.


Written By Neil Taylor on October 19th, 2009 @ 3:44 am

can help me send a chinese message use PDU mode.how can i change chinese into UCS2 code? thanks!

Written By mingqi li on March 9th, 2010 @ 11:14 pm

Can you please tell me how to save EMS messages from my Samsung
J700 phone to my PC? I can save SMS messages useing Samsung PC Studio 3 no problem.Thanks!

Written By Heiner on March 10th, 2010 @ 10:53 pm


When I try to move my messages from my phone to my pc, I cant move some of them, and they say EMS messages, how can I transform them in normal messages???

Thank you

Written By Veronica Nino on March 17th, 2010 @ 3:48 pm

Hi, HELP!!!
I need a computer wizz.how can i open my EMS messages from my phone to my computer, as they say:this is an EMS message, view in phone. i have tryed SO many different ways but have not been able to do it. pls can you help transform to a normal message.
look forwards to hear from you soon.
Thank you.

Written By D on May 3rd, 2010 @ 8:55 am


I have the same problem as many of the other writers.

I have a Samsung E530 and I have in/out EMS text messagea that I can not save to my computer as the others it says view only

can you please help as I have tried several other options. I have phoned my provider but they do not know anything

Please help

Written By Dot on August 1st, 2010 @ 9:50 am


I have received notification of an EMS Message. I am trying to download this message via Samsung PC Studio (Vers 3.2). I can see other messages but the EMS only tells me the time & date and a phone number that the message comes from. How do I go about saving this message to my computer or even print the message out.

Written By Theresa on November 6th, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

how can i open my EMS messages from my phone to my computer, as they say:this is an EMS message, view in phone. pls can you help me to convert EMS message to a normal message.
look forwards to hear from you soon.
Thank you.

Written By chow wah on January 16th, 2011 @ 1:39 am

Can you please tell me how to save EMS messages from my Samsung
U900 SOUL phone to my PC?

Written By Uday Parab on January 30th, 2011 @ 7:48 am

Hi Jeroen,
are you still available? I like many others would like to know if its possible to convert EMS messages to basic SMS.I can download SMS from Samsung to computer so I can then copy to email, but EMS just refers me back to view in phone….

Written By Lindsay on June 21st, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

can u please help even i cannot save ems from my samsung m2710 to my computer and its important .how to i transfer these ems to normal sms

Written By nidhi kakrania on August 10th, 2011 @ 3:25 am

The texts I am sending are EMS not SMS – How do I change the setting on my phone? With this I am unable to download texts to my computer which I want to be able to do.

Written By Gill on March 4th, 2012 @ 6:56 am

I know this hasn’t been active for awhile, but how do I send an MMS with PDU mode? Has there been any development on that yet?

Written By Filet on August 7th, 2013 @ 9:55 am

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