In some particularly positive news, Google has launched its Gmail SMS Chat service in South Africa, which enables Gmail users on a PC to chat with mobile phone users via SMS, for free.
The web-to-cell SMS service is open to all Gmail users and is initially available to numbers on the MTN and 8∙ta mobile networks.
The company elaborated that by using Gmail SMS Chat, users can send text messages from their desktop Gmail Chat interface directly to mobile phone numbers via SMS. In return, the mobile phone users can reply by SMS and their responses will appear in the original sender's Gmail Chat interface.
Gmail users are not charged for outgoing text messages and the mobile users are charged standard text messaging rates for the replies.
The service can be used by starting a new chat with a mobile user by typing their phone number into the new Chat and SMS box (found under the Compose button on the left hand side of one’s Gmail), entering a message and pressing send. Phone numbers can be saved to users’ Gmail Contacts and existing contacts with phone numbers will show a new option to send an SMS.
MTN South Africa’s chief marketing officer, Serame Taukobong pointed out that, although email has become a critical communication tool, the reality is that there are still many individuals who do not have access to the internet and thus, do not have their own email account.
She asserted that MTN was once again making it easier for its customers to communicate instantly from their computers via SMS with contacts who don’t have email, and do so at their convenience, at no charge.
“What is also great about this feature is that the recipient can respond to such a message via SMS, where the message will appear in the sender’s original Gmail chat interface - making it easier for individuals to communicate instantly and without hassle,” she continued.
Amith Maharaj, senior managing executive of 8∙ta, commented that the service brings flexibility and mobility to 8∙ta and Gmail users, adding that “the launch of SMS in Gmail Chat is yet another way of demonstrating 8∙ta’s dedication to bringing valuable services that matter to our customers.”
The service was initially rolled out in Kenya two years ago, and has since been launched in other African countries and emerging markets. "We are very pleased to be launching Gmail SMS Chat in South Africa," commented Luke McKend, country manager for Google South Africa.
"The service has been specifically designed with consumers on the African continent in mind and will bring a new level of flexibility and mobility to Gmail Chat," he concluded.
In our test of the service, on the MTN network, it worked flawlessly, delivering the SMS sent from our Gmail account on our PC to the cellular recipient in mere seconds.