Google has unveiled its free SMS service in India.

The SMS service can be accessed from its GTalk application and also from the GTalk integration in Gmail.

Though there has not been a formal announcement in this regard, Gmail users have been getting a notification indicating the same.

The service has been active for quite some time, but it is only now that Google has made it public.

According to Google, the service is supported by all operators in India and the US, but not by all operators in other countries.

Procedure

You have to enter your contact’s name in the ‘Search or invite friends’ box in Chat, and select ‘Send SMS’ If there is a Chat window open for the contact, you can select ‘Send SMS’ from the Options dropdown.

The Google SMS help site says: “In the dialog box, enter a phone number in the ‘Send SMS messages to this number’ field. This feature is only launched in select countries. Click here for the list of supported countries and operators. If you are not located in one of these countries you can still use it, but you won't see the SMS option in Chat until you enable it manually in the Chat settings page.

“Click Save.

“A Chat window appears. Just type your message as you would normally. When you hit Enter, the message will be sent to the phone number you entered.

“If your contact replies, the text message response will appear as a reply in Chat. These conversations are stored in your Chat history just like regular chats (but keep in mind that you can’t go off the record while communicating via SMS).”

When the recipient sends a reply, it will be displayed as a chat message.

SMS credits

All users get 50 credits every day. Every time the user sends a SMS, one credit is deducted. If the user receives a reply, five credits are credited to the user’s account, but the total number of credits will not exceed 50.

If you run out of credits, you will get a fresh set of 50 credits the next day, but you can always “buy” credits.

Says Google: “Keep in mind that if you'd like a higher message credit, you can always send an SMS to your own phone, and then reply to that message multiple times. Every time you send a reply message, your SMS credit is increased by five. Effectively, you're buying more messages by paying your phone company for these outgoing messages.”

What’s the catch?

If the service is free, is there a catch? Yes, but a minor one. Says Google, “If you are attempting to send an SMS message via chat in Gmail and are told that the recipient must reply before more messages will be delivered, you will not be able to send your message until they do so. At this time, if they are unable to respond, you will be unable to send additional text messages to this contact.

“To prevent abuse, any Gmail user who sends an excessive number of SMS messages from Gmail, without getting any responses in return, will be blocked from sending further SMS messages.”

dinakaran.rengachary@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on October 11, 2012)
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