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Google Brings Emails to Feature Phones in Africa, No Internet Access Required

A new Gmail feature brings email capabilities to feature phones, using the power of SMS. It is available only in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria

Some of us in the Western hemisphere might already take Internet access and smartphones for granted, but this is not the case all over the world. Bearing that in mind, Google has launched a cool new service called Gmail SMS, which allows Gmail users who own a simple feature phone to send and receive emails using only text messages.

The new service is currently available only in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, but will probably spread to other emerging markets across Asia and Africa once the initial trial is complete. The implications, however, are interesting; anyone who does not own a smartphone, or can't get a stable Wi-Fi or 3G connection, will nonetheless be able to stay connected through email.

Once you enable it through your Google Account settings, the service lets you email any recipient by sending a simple text message. The email will be received as usual, in the right conversation thread. Any reply will be automatically forwarded from your Gmail account to your phone, and will be received as a text message. You can also control the emails received with commands such as "More", "Pause" and "Resume".

As we've come to expect from Google, the service is complete free, although you should take into account the regular SMS charges from your mobile carrier. If text messages are an expensive affair, you might want to cool it down with those text-message emails.

Gmail SMS is developed by Google's Emerging Markets team, and may never reach the rest of the world. That being said, the ability to stay connected when necessary while carrying around nothing but a simple Nokia feature phone sure seems appealing to me.

What do you think? Would you give up your smartphone if you could use this feature?

[Google Africa Blog]

Yaara is a foodie, horse-lover and biologist who enjoys being a geek as a full-time job. You can also find her on MakeUseOf and tweeting her time away on @ylancet.

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