Search giant Google has launched free SMS service for users of its free email service Gmail and paid email service Google Apps, in India. The Gmail SMS feature is now accessible to Indian users along with 51 other countries in Asia, Africa and North America. Google had first made this feature available to its users in some African countries in 2011.
The service allows users to send SMSes to mobile phones from chat windows. Responses to the SMSs will appear as replies in Gmail Chat and conversations will be stored in users’ Chat history, like regular chats. This feature was activated for Indian users on October 10.
The service starts with 50 SMS credits for each user, every sent SMS costing one credit. Every reply received adds on 5 credits subject to the maximum level being 50 SMS at any given time.When the SMS credit goes down to zero, one credit is added after 24 hours. Google has built in the credit limit to prevent misuse of its free SMS service for marketing/spamming. Users can also ‘buy’ SMS credit, when they’ve run out of them, by sending a text message to their own phone and then by replying to that message.
While sending SMS from Gmail Chat to phones is free, responding to Gmail SMSs from the phone may incur standard SMS charges.
People who do not wish to receive SMSs sent from Gmail Chat can block future messages from the sender by replying to the message with the word ‘BLOCK’ and later if they wish to continue receiving messages they can reply to the message with ‘UNBLOCK’.
If Gmail Chat SMS recipients in India do not wish to receive any messages on SMS from any Gmail user, they can stop the service from sending them messages by texting ‘STOP’ to +918082801060. To reactivate the service they can SMS ‘START’ to the same number.
In India the free Gmail SMS service is available on eight major mobile service operators: Aircel, Idea, Loop Mobile, MTS, Reliance, Tata DoCoMo, Tata indicom and Vodafone (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal & Andaman and Nicobar, Assam, North East).