Free International SMS using Gmail SMS

Update #1 (September 9, 2014): SMS through Google Chat in Gmail was discontinued on April 1, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I sent out a tweet about how cost effect and convenient I was finding Gmail SMS –I mean I am behind a machine 95% of the time so clearly, its something quite useful for me… Plus, its 100% free –compare that with the R1.74 (ZMK1218) I have to pay for each SMS I send to Zambia if I use Vodacom. I think that very few people who read my tweet actually understood the idea behind it, and so I decided to write a short article about it, with the hope that someone else out there will find this service useful –as I do :D.

I have since appropriated Gmail SMS and now use it as a primary means of communicating with most of my family members and friends. The only things I detest about it is the fact that the product is still in the testtube (Google labs) –its “unstable” and there’s no telling what might eventually happen to the product; and my contacts now have to maintain an extra contact number –my Gmail SMS number :D– but who cares anyway.

How it works
You are initially allocated fifty(50) free SMS messages; and logically, each time you send an SMS, the quota allocation decreases by one(1). But the interesting thing is that each time you receive an SMS via Gmail SMS, your quota allocation increases by five(5). Its a rather interesting business model.

Gmail SMS is still in the lab, but as of today (September 18, 2011), there are a total of 28 supported countries and Zambia, Malawi& Philippines are on the list (most of my contacts are covered :D)

How to use it
Seeing that the product is still in the testtube, one needs to explicitly enable it via Gmail labs settings tab.

There are obviously a lot of situations where this can be applied –well, I can think of so many anyway– and the fact that its “free” makes it even more convenient to use.


[1] Gmail SMS, (N.D). Retrieved September 21, 2011, from Google Mobile:
[2] Sending SMS from Gmail, (N.D). Retrieved September 21, 2011, from Google Support:

  • I have been using to send free international messages without registration. Works great from Dubai to Canada and India

    • I vividly remember trying this out, but it never worked for most African mobile operators.