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Google rolls out email from SMS service, starting with Africa

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.

Author | Nur Bremmen: Staff reporter

Nur Bremmen: Staff reporter
Nur is an enigma with a passion for creating words. He recently entered a love affair with technology and chorizo sausages. He travels a lot -- you catch him, if you can, at a Silicon Cape event every now and again. More


  1. Mark

    July 19, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Potentially one of my more stupid q’s… I am a bit technically naive – per article you pay standard sms rates when you send a mail. Does this mean that as with standard sms send rates in South Africa there is a word limit on a message size whereby if you exceed this that the message is charged as 2 or more messages? Given the length of emails this potentially could mean sending emails becomes pricey. Otherwise potentially a great tool to be able to receive emails on a basic phone or allowing you to send o users with basic phones from your desktop.

  2. Ranjith Woo

    July 19, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Here’s also a site which offers gmail on sms. But its the 3rd party service offering this gmail to sms service. Its WeekWill.com. Give a try,.

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