Google launches Gmail SMS for feature phones in emerging markets

Texting remains one of the few services in the mobile industry that can be regarded as some sort of a standard. Available, across varied mobile platforms, carriers and geographic boundaries, it is the true convergence service. And Google just breathed a fresh lease of life into SMS in this age of smartphones and tweets.gmail_sms

The newly launchedGmail SMS allows Gmail users to send and receive emails in the form of SMS from their mobiles. The service currently is available to select African countries which include Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. The user will first have to register their mobile with Google by logging into their account and after the mobile has been linked the user will start communicating via SMS as a medium for sending and receiving emails.

The emails can be stopped at any time from being forwarded to the device. A number of commands like MORE, PAUSE and RESUME are available to provide greater control to the user. The service Gmail SMS itself is free, but the user will be charged for the regular texting charges as per their network. Though Google hasn’t indicated any intentions of expanding this service, we won’t be surprised if does roll out to other developing countries.

It has not been the first time Google has been bullish on the humble SMS. Google has in the past bundled the SMS into Google+. TheG+ SMS initially launched only for the US and the Indian audiences was later expanded to 41 other countries, mostly in the developing world. The service allowed users to post updates via SMS, receive notifications over SMS and even reply to them.

For users in the developed world or those with smartphones and high speed data plans, this might not be much of a news. But the fact that even though India is one of the fastest growing mobile economies, the mobile internet penetration stands at just 3.3% according to World Bank’s latest report. Investing in SMS technology to tap users in the developing countries with basic voice and texting phones makes a whole lot of sense.