New to GMail labs is a feature that allows you to chat by sending and receiving text messages from within GMail!
This is actually a really cool feature that sort of misfired during the launch a fortnight ago, but we’re assured that it’s now working perfectly. If you’re chatting with someone and they take off from their computer, or sign out of chat, you can still reach them and carry on the conversation via SMS.
A few caveats – it currently only works for US cell phone numbers, meaning that you can send an SMS from GMail from anywhere in the world to a recipient with phone service in the US. A normal reply to the text will send it to your chat window in GMail. I’m hoping this feature goes international really soon, that will definitely make communications much easier and less costly, especially for those networks that do not charge for incoming texts or provide for texting packages.
The number that shows up in the text is for a 406 area code (Montana). So this means that if you have a text package from your carrier, it’s not an extra charge on the monthly bill as may be typically be the case for international texts. With T-Mobile, incoming international messages are taken out of the message quota, if you’ve signed up for a messaging package, otherwise there’s a charge per message. For outgoing messages a charge exists based on the destination country. See the rates for international messaging. This is only for T-Mobile and may vary with other carriers.
So how do you actually send text messages from within GMail?
1. Enable ‘Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat’, under Labs settings
2. Log in to chat, then in the box that says ‘Search, add or invite’, type in the contacts name
An options window will appear on the side, and one of the options will read ‘Send SMS’ (as above)
3. Click that, enter a (ten digit US) phone number and save it. A chat window opens.
Type away and remember when you hit ‘Enter’, the recipient *may* be charged extra for it.
Notice that the contact’s name appears in the chat on the reply. So it’s just like regular chat, only via SMS (and may be free too!).
There have been lots of questions surrounding how the SMS-in-chat feature works, so I hope this helps.