Google’s Free SMS Service For Kenyan Subscribers

Posted on Friday, October 01, 2010, under

Like a rocket, the free Google SMS service landed into my Gmail account this morning. I was quick to click on the Send SMS tab, that now appears at the left side bar just below the arranged group of email boxes, with a clear imagination that someone would later prompt me for my credit card information but nay, the critic was  proven wrong. The service is as free as the Google search box comes to your browser.


How it works

The send SMS tab only has a single input box with the title phone number. Key in a preferred recipient's number and press the enter key on your keyboard. You will be prompted to save the contact details by clicking on the save button. A docked SMS box will appear to at the bottom right of your screen where you can write, submit and view your SMS/chat history with your contacts.

Gmail on your Cell

To my surprise, the message that I received on my mobile phone was from a Safaricom line (+254700999415) which only means that the service has been customized for Kenya but the unfortunate thing being that so far support is only for Safaricom. I received  two texts after submitting the message to my own number.

“Sent: 10/1/2010 10:55


Hi. Check out the google SMS service (This is what I initially sent via the service) (Email address from the sender)

-You may reply (An extra instructional message)”


“Sent: 10/1/2010 10:55


(Gmail) initiated a chat with you. You may reply to this message like a regular SMS or Send Help for more info (Email address from the sender)

-You may reply (An extra instruction message)”

How they Got here

A couple of years ago, Google made a significant investment with Mobile Planet a value added service provider in Kenya. Value added services include the SMS promotions you regularly see or hear on the telly today using short code numbers such as 6040, bulk SMS and online mobile payments.

Where Else

In partnership with Safaricom, the service has been successfully launched in Senegal and Ghana. This is according to Google’s Business Development Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Topping Up SMS credits

While this would have been their main revenue stream, the service only requires that you use one SMS (normal Charges apply) from your phone to earn five more for your Gmail account. However, each time a recipient replies to your message you receive 5 more quotas.

A quota is an allocation of SMS (text messages) that you're able to send to a mobile phone:

  • Initially, you're granted a quota of fifty messages.
  • Every time you send a message, your quota decreases by one.
  • Every time you receive an SMS message in Chat (for example when a phone user replies to one of your messages) your quota increases by five, up to a maximum of 50.

That’s all for now. Keep peeping at the  feeds for live updates.

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