Google has announced that it is extending its free SMS chat service to India users. This feature which allows users to send an SMS to their friends’ phones via Google Chat is now available for India and 51 other countries in Asia, Africa and North America. However, the feature is not yet available on GTalk app for computers or smartphones. It’s only working on Gmail currently in desktops and PCs.
Eight major mobile service operators in India will support this Gmail SMS service. They are: Aircel, Idea, Loop Mobile, MTS, Reliance, Tata DoCoMo, Tata Indicom and Vodafone (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Andaman and Nicobar, Assam, North East).
Initially users will get a credit limit of 50 SMS’s. For every message sent, one credit will decrease. But for each message received in response, credit goes up by five. When your SMS credit is zero, one credit will be added after 24 hours. Users can also ‘buy’ SMS credit, when they’ve run out of them, by sending an SMS to their own phone and replying to that.
Google also states that If users send too many messages from web to mobile, without mobile responding, the web user will get blocked from sending SMS messages. If users want to block SMSs from GChat from a particular contact, they can just reply to the message with BLOCK’. And if users don’t want the service altogether, they can text ‘STOP’ to +918082801060. To reactivate send SMS ‘START’ to the same number.
How it works? One can enter the phone number they wish to send a message or select one of the existing contacts through the chat widget, following which a popup window opens up through which they can send an SMS. If the contact replies, this message will appear as a reply in the same chat thread. If you are familiar to how Google Chat/Gtalk works, it works in a similar fashion, except for the fact that you are sending an SMS instead of an IM (Instant Message).
Supported Operators: Sadly, this service is not operator-agnostic and seems to work only on Aircel, Loop Mobile, Reliance, and Tata DoCoMo phone numbers at the time of writing this article. Update: The service has now been rolled out to all mobile operators in India.
SMS credits: Google’s SMS service works on a credit system: Each Gmail user is initially allotted 50 SMS credits which can be used to send text messages through their Gmail/Google Apps Dashboard. Each time the user gets a reply to his message through SMS, his credits will increase by five until it reaches the maximum of 50. Google will also increase the SMS credit back to one after 24hrs in case the user runs out of SMS credits.
No Option To Buy Credits? There currently seems to be no option to buy higher SMS credits. Instead, Google states in their own SMS support page that one can send an SMS from a phone and reply to the message multiple times through their phone to increase their SMS credits. Since the conversation happens over a premium number on the phone, Google said that users will be effectively buying credits by paying the telecom operator for these messages.
Other Services: Yahoo has been offering a similar SMS service for quite some time, wherein users of Yahoo Messenger can send text messages to any mobile phone. Way2online, which recently acquired the Hyderabad SMS portal 160by2, operates a person-to-person (P2P) messaging portal called Way2SMS.com. In Novermber 2011, Sabeer Bhatia had relaunched Jaxtr as JaxtrSMS, a mobile app which allows users to send national and international text messages for free.