Google has introduced a new ‘free SMS’ (text messaging) service as part of its free email service, Gmail.
While free SMS notifications – such as those about status updates, comments etc. on Google Plus – were already available, it is the first time that Google is promoting the SMS services as a standalone messaging service.
Yahoo Messenger has had such a service for several years. Facebook too lets users message their friends on their mobile phones using SMS technology. Twitter too allows its users to configure its settings so that they can receive all their incoming messages on their phones as text messages.
Google’s service, however, is different in that it has a much wider base of ‘supported operators’. In India, for example, nearly all the operators except Airtel, including Vodafone, Reliance, MTS, Tata, Idea and Aircel, are supported.
All operators in the United States are supported, but most countries in Western Europe, including Germany, France, Italy and the UK, are not supported at present.
Google’s SMS business model depends on the receiver of Gmail-SMSes responding to the message. Every user starts with a free SMS credit, usually of 50 messages. This credit is increased by five every time someone responds to the his or her text message by sending a return message.
It is not known whether the person who replies to a text message sent from Gmail will be charged at normal text-messaging rates or at ‘premium’ rates, such as those applicable for contests.
“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,” Google says.