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Read your Emails Without Internet Access? Google Launches Gmail SMS for users in Africa to Send & Recieve Emails by Text Message



I logged into my Gmail account today and a pop up came on my screen asking me to give some information that will allow me send and receive my emails by SMS. I declined by closing the pop up because I didn’t have much details about the service.

But surfing through the internet some minutes later, I stumbled upon the news that Google has rolled out a new service in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya that lets Gmail users send and receive emails using the built-in SMS features of their mobile phones.

With this service, mobile Internet access isn’t required and users don’t need a new-fangled smartphone with 3G or WiFi capabilities either. For emerging markets, where iPhone and Android uptake may not be what it is in the Western world, not to mention limited Web access, Gmail SMS (available locally) is an interesting launch.

As long as you have a basic mobile phone with voice and SMS capability in these three African countries, you’ll now be able to do all your emailing by text message through activating a simple setting on your Gmail account.

How it works

“Gmail SMS automatically forwards your emails as SMS text messages to your phone and you can respond by replying directly to the SMS,” says Geva Rechav, Product Manager of Emerging Markets at Google. “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.”

To register for this service, you’ll need to log-in to your Gmail account, and click on your profile at the top of the page and then hit Account. Next, you’ll have to access your settings in the “Phone and SMS” section. You will then have to link your mobile phone number to your account to be able to send and receive emails from your handset.

When you click to send a verification code to your mobile phone, you then enter that number you receive into the box on the set-up page.

While the Gmail SMS service itself is free, you will of course still be charged whatever your local SMS rates are.

Now, this is what stopped me from registering for the service in the first place. I get lots of emails every day, most of which I don’t even read and I wouldn’t want to be charged with my local SMS rates for receiving the emails on my phone. And with the MORE, PAUSE and RESUME commands, it doesn’t actually let you select the email you want to receive, but lets you stop receiving or resume whenever you want.

But then, with most people using Blackberries these days and having access to their emails on the go, I’m wondering how the acceptability of this service would fly in our society.

For me, I’m glad I didn’t register for the service. Wouldn’t want to pay to receive junk emails on my phone. Maybe if it was free, just maybe….

What do you think about the new service by Google? Would you subscribe to receiving and sending emails via SMS on your phone?

News Source:

Adeola Adeyemo is a graduate of Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from University of Lagos. However, her passion is writing and she worked as a reporter with NEXT Newspaper. She believes that anything can be written about; anything can be a story depending on the angle it is seen from and the writer's imagination. When she is not writing news or feature articles, she slips into her fantasies and creates interesting fiction pieces. She blogs at


  1. Theodora

    July 18, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    No Bloody way, like you said just maybe if the service was free i would have jumped at it, i receive my mails anywhere anytime so why would i want to be charged for that through sms… Next innovation plzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  2. Janded

    July 18, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    That is not a good deal

  3. X factor

    July 18, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Apparently you are one of the few lucky Nigerians/Africans who have crossed the poverty line and I am sooo happy for you. I most definitely will not be needing the service either because i can tell we both belong to the blackberry users club and the Young upwardly mobile persons (Y.U.M.P) club……However, I am positive that with google’s market status/credence ,there must have been some level of market research/product needs analysis before any product/service launch. I have discovered that often times,our exposure limits our understanding of the ultimate objective/revenue benefits of tech products/services.(albeit the product is not restricted to Nigeria), and who knows this may just be a pilot phase for a bigger service offering from google. I opine that your assertions are a bit myopic and your sentiments are a bit too profound for an article that wants to drive divergent views , may be you want to read again and re-assess the depth of this particular write-up. well done.

  4. John Onwuegbu

    July 18, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Actually, receiving email is free! You are charged local SMS rate to send email or reply an already received mail. Overall, its targeted at feature phone users without internet connection.

  5. Princess of Zion

    July 18, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    Google really is doing a lot in terms of social media; but this I think is really good and handy!! It’s really humbling to see them specifically launching such opportunities in Africa.

  6. christy

    July 19, 2012 at 7:55 am

    I assert that,the writeup of this article,would have leave the larger market to decided weather it will be beneficial to them or not,instead of drawing ur own conclusion,why seek our own opinion again??????

    • X factor

      July 19, 2012 at 10:25 am

      Same Opinion here

  7. molarah

    July 20, 2012 at 12:23 am

    Good move by Google, that’s the way to go to move their services to people in the hinterland that don’t have stable or frequent internet access! I love smart, well-thought out business strategies like this.

    And for those saying they don’t need it, you might just reconsider in the light of the recent BIS blackouts, especially when you are expecting important emails.

  8. dhee

    July 20, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Always get ur facts right before putting pen to paper…in which country of the world are you charged only for receiving SMS…aren’t you only charged when you reply….this article is so misleading and demeaning of googles great effort to create a platform for people who don’t have 24hrs internet connectivity on their phone

  9. ben

    July 22, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Google just wants your information so it can sell it to advertisers. Shine your eye when you are giving the ‘extra information’ they ask for when you’re signing up for the free sms. Your date of birth (i.e. your age demographic), where you are located. They are already making a mess of privacy in Europe and America, with Google buzz, Google plus and other recent lawsuits and privacy breaches. Of course Africa is the natural next course of action for them. Be informed as a user and STIC WITH YOUR BLACKBERRY or ten kobo phone. At least you know they are not calculating the millions they can make off you as a ‘young, upwardly mobile consumer’ from an ’emerging economy’.

  10. Sam

    February 16, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    There’s also a similar service called Quickmailcheck for people in the United States that allows them to access email through text messages. It works with Gmail and other large email providers.

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