This is very cool. Millions of people around the world have GMail accounts. But a sizeable number of those people who own “dumb phones” have only ever been able to access the service on a desktop computer. Until now.
Google has just announced that it’s rolling out GMail SMS, a service that lets you send and receive emails as SMSes on your mobile phone. The really cool part though, is that you don’t have to be connected to the internet to use the service.
Given the large number of people still using phones with zero or limited internet connectivity in emerging markets, it’s hardly surprising that Google chose Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya as the first countries to receive the service.
As is typically the case with SMS, receiving a Gmail SMS is free of charge, while standard rates will be charged when you send one.
According to Geva Rechav, Product Manager of Emerging Markets at Google:
Gmail SMS automatically forwards your emails as SMS text messages to your phone and you can respond by replying directly to the SMS. You can control the emails received by replying with commands such as MORE, PAUSE and RESUME. Additionally, compose a new email as an SMS and send to any email address recipient – who will find your message in the right email conversation thread.
Here’s how you can get started:
In your Gmail account, click on your profile photo or account name at the top of the page and click Account
Click Open SMS settings in the “Phone and SMS” section.
Add your phone number to receive Gmail to that number.
Verify your phone number by entering the verification code that we sent as SMS to your phone.
Check the box for email forwarding to your phone.
It should be noted however that this isn’t the first time a big tech giant has made a popular online service available to people with basic phones. In February, Orange announced that it wanted to bring Facebook to “every phone in Africa” using USSD.