Here’s some good news for those who like to keep in touch via SMS. Google has rolled out its free SMS chat service for Gmail users in India. The service allows users to send free SMS messages to any number via chat windows in GTalk. To enable the service, click the 'Gears' icon in Gmail, select 'Settings', click on the 'Labs' tab in the settings panel and select the 'Enable' option for 'SMS (text messaging) in Chat'.

Although Google’s page for the service states that the service is supported by all major operators in India, reports in the media indicate that the service currently supports Aircel, Idea, Loop Mobile, MTS, Reliance, Tata DoCoMo, Tata Indicom and some circles of Vodafone; BSNL, MTNL and Airtel numbers are not supported as of now.

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Now send free SMS messages to mobile phones via Gmail.

Google gives you 50 SMS credits to use for sending SMS, and every SMS costs you one credit. Every time you receive a reply from a mobile phone number, your credit goes up by five, up to a maximum of 50. If your SMS credit goes down to zero, Google will give you one credit after a period of 24 hours. You can also increase your credit by sending an SMS to your own mobile number and then reply to that message multiple times; each reply will earn you five credits. Google does not charge you for sending SMS messages, but your mobile phone carrier might charge you for replying to text messages received from a Gmail contact.

To send an SMS message, simply type the name or number of the contact in the Chat panel in Gmail, and select 'Send SMS' from the box of options that appears to the right of your contact’s name. If you already have a chat window open, click ‘Options’, and select ‘Send SMS’. In the dialogue box which pops up, enter the mobile phone number and click ‘Save’. A new chat window will appear, and you can simply type in your messages as you normally would. Hitting ‘Enter’ will send the message to the phone number.

If you receive an SMS message from a Gmail contact, you can add the number to your address book to save it, as that number will be associated with the sender’s Gmail account, and you can use it to send SMS messages to them. Your messages and replies will show up as a chat window on the sender’s Gmail account.

Google first started offering SMS text messaging via Gmail in late 2008. The service was initially restricted to users in the United States, but now has been expanded to include users in over 50 countries across the world.

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