Friday, March 18, 2011

Send Free SMS from Gmail to Mobile Phones in East Africa

I often get asked by friends on the best website to use to send free SMS to Uganda, Kenya or Tanzania. Google Mail (GMail) has now made this possible.

Steps on how you can send free SMS to people in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

1. Get a Gmail Address - Sign up for a free Google email address here.

Gmail Send SMS to phone
2. After you have signed into your Gmail email address, you should now see the Send SMS box just above the chat box, as in photo on the left.

Gmail Send SMS to phone
**If you do see the Send SMS box, just skip a few steps below. Otherwise, go through them so you can help your friends enjoy this cool feature.

If you do not see the Send SMS feature in your Gmail address, do the following:

Gmail Settings
3. Sign in to your Gmail address. Look at the top left corner of your open email address and click on settings.

4. On the Settings page, locate and click on the Labs tab.

Gmail Labs tab
Enable SMS Gmail Labs
5. On the Labs page, search for SMS and click on the circles next to Enable to activate each of those items, as shown in the photo below.

Remember to click on Save Changes at the bottom of the Gmail Labs page.

After you have done that, you should now be able to see the Send SMS box above the chat box just below the links to your inbox.


Otherwise, type in the number of person you would like to send an SMS & press ENTER key.

Gmail SMS contact details box
6. You will get a small pop dialog box in the middle of your screen.

Fill in the name of the owner of the mobile number you sending SMS to. Select their country from the country list (extremely useful feature to send SMS to friends allover East Africa).

Remember to click on Save when you done.

Gmail SMS to phone chat-box
7. A small chat box will appear at the bottom corner of your GMail page. Go ahead and type away your SMS (keep it to 160 characters like a normal SMS).

****Challenges of the Gmail SMS to mobile phone:
- As sender, please include your full name. The SMS don't display  sender's name, only their email address.
- If you send the SMS in the local language (luganda, kiswahili...), the reply instructions on the mobile are still displayed in english. You may consider writing to the receiver in the same local language how to reply to your SMS.
- The number listed as the sender's name on MTN Uganda is 0902801159, which is most likely a non Ugandan network number, replying or calling it could cost more than local telecom rates.
- There is no delivery report system in Gmail that an SMS has been delivered to the phone you sent it to.

Supported East African carriers
Tanzania (+255): Vodacom
Uganda (+256): Orange (0790), MTN (0772, 0782), Uganda Telecom (0712)
Kenya (+254): AirtelorangeSafaricom

Tips about the Gmail SMS to mobile phone:
1. Each Gmail user has 50 free SMS. Every time you send an SMS your SMS quote decreases by 1.
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.
2. To buy more GMail SMS, send an SMS to your mobile phone and reply to it several times. Each time you reply to your SMS using your mobile phone, your GMail SMS count goes up by 5 SMS.

3. To block SMS from Gmail user, just reply to the message with the word 'BLOCK'. If you change your mind about the user and would like to receive Gmail SMS from same user, reply with the phrase 'UNBLOCK' to the phone number from which the message was sent.
Get more help from Google Support

Use this free service sensibly. Please do not spam your friends with wedding meetings SMS, death of your mother SMS or that you have no money.