Search engine and mail host Google has launched a text-based version of their hugely popular Gmail email service, which is specifically aimed at users in Africa who do not necessarily have access to a constant or stable connection to the Internet.
The new service is also aimed at users who do not have smartphones and make use of feature phones – mobile devices that cannot connect to the Internet and have no ability to feature apps.
“Gmail SMS works on any phone, even the most basic ones which only support voice and SMS. Gmail SMS automatically forwards your emails as SMS text messages to your phone and you can respond by replying directly to the SMS,” said Geva Rechav, Google’s product manager for emerging markets.
While Google is conducting educational programmes in the African region, the SMS addition extends Google’s product range which is specifically aimed at enhancing the lives of Africans. Google previously said that computer science training in African is “an important goal for Google in 2012”.
Often the lack of resources to buy hardware in order to connect to the Internet is a major stumbling block, which the SMS services aim to overcome.
“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!” Rechav added.
Gmail SMS is currently available in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya and is offered as a free service, while any command sent texts will be subject to standard network rates.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor