Is Google expanding sms's to the rest of the world?

by: Moshe Brevda

Is the big G planning on adding sms capabilities to gmail for international destinations? After a rocky start, Google (re)introduced sms-ing to US phones in December 2008. Since then, if you would try to send an sms to a non US number you would get an error along the lines of “At this time sms is avalible to US numbers only”.

Today it seems that they are starting to allow sms’ing to international destinations. Right clicking on a contact and selecting Vidoe & more -> Send SMS shows the following chat box:


Notice the new message quota system (which doesn’t apply to US bound sms’s). “Initially, you’re granted a quota of fifty messages”, says this help page which seems to have been posted today (2009-6-11). For every sms you send, your quota gets decresed by one. To earn them back: “Every time you receive an SMS message in Chat … your quota increases by five”. Additional, the quota gets reset every 24 hours.

I’m not sure when this service is going live, but every number that I tired to sms got one of the following error’s:

Also, if you try to sms a contact that doesn’t have any listed mobile numbers, the “add a number” prompt still warns you that “[sms chat is] US phones only for now”.

What’s interesting to note is Google’s business model here. While in the US the cost for sms’s are covered by the receiver of the sms - and hence Google can “afford” to send them for free, it’s no secret that send sms’s to European providers can be rather expensive. Google seems to have some system worked out a system with the carriers where they recoup the expenses for sent sms’s from the money they receive on received sms’s (think of it like the 900 number of sms). They even offer you a this tip in case you’ve run out of sms’s for the day:

“Keep in mind that if you’d like a higher message quota, you can always send an SMS to your own phone, and then reply to that message multiple times. Every time you send a reply message, your quota is increased by five. Effectively, you’re buying more messages by paying your phone company for these outgoing messages.”