Since I worked in Africa last year, I have a different view of mobile phone, feature phone and smartphone requirements and Google's latest initiative will be very welcome there, I'm sure. As Google Africa today announced on its Africa blog, Google created and just launched "Gmail SMS". E-Mail has become an important part of everyday life, doesn't matter if it is in the first world or emerging markets, doesn't matter if it is used for personal or business communication and as Google wrote, "there's so much you do with it: apply for a job, make an inquiry, get notifications from your social network, receive photos or an invitation that makes you smile, and just communicate back and forth with your friends".
However, and that's indeed true, sometimes barriers arise between you and your E-Mail. Whether if you're not by a computer or your phone is not connected to the Internet or the Internet is down or too slow, so that E-Mails just won't load? As a matter of fact there are more mobile phones in Africa than PCs but most of these phones are just US$ 20 bread and butter mobile phones, neither feature phones not to talk about smartphones.
To help solve these issues, Google has created Gmail SMS which it is excited to make this new service available in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya first. Gmail SMS allows to send and receive E-Mails as SMS messages using a plain mobile phone, regardless of whether or not the phone has an Internet connection, like WiFi or 3G. Gmail SMS works on any phone, even the most basic ones which only support voice and SMS, which is the majority of cell phones in Africa.
Gmail SMS automatically forwards received E-Mails as SMS text messages and allows to respond by replying directly to the SMS. It's even possible to control the E-Mails received by replying with commands such as MORE, PAUSE and RESUME. Additionally, it's possible to compose a new E-Mail as an SMS and sending it to any E-Mail address in the world, who even will find the message in the right E-Mail conversation thread!
Receiving Gmail SMS is free of charge, standard SMS rates apply when sending an E-Mail text message as well as for sending Gmail SMS commands.
Now let's hope that Gmail SMS will come to even more countries but I know that Google's Ghana office is doing a pretty good job supporting local carriers. Therefore I would expect it's just a question of time to see it being launched in even more countries.
Cheers ~ Arne