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With news breaking that Indian users can now send and receive free texts over Gmail Chat to mobile phones, we decided to give it a shot while pondering over the merits of its use.

But before we could even get to the latter, it turns out the service hasn’t even fully kicked in yet. When I tried to send a text to a friend in Bangalore, I got an error message saying ‘Aarthi did not receive your SMS’. When I asked her to text me through chat instead, she couldn’t even find the ‘Send Text (SMS)’ option in her chat window!

So obviously there are a few chinks to work out. The service, said to be available to regular Gmail users and paid Google App users, will follow a simple credit system. You start out with 50 SMS credits, and lose one credit for every SMS you send. If you get a reply from a mobile phone to your GChat window, 5 credits are added to your account. You can’t earn more than 50 credits and stalkers and clingy girlfriends be warned, constantly sending SMSes via chat without receiving a reply will be construed as spamming and you will be blocked from using the service entirely.

Once It Starts Working, Google’s Free SMS Service on GChat May Have Limited Appeal

Of course, as Madmadrasi opines, this service could still be a godsend to spammers and pranksters. Either way, if you run out of credits, they will be replenished after 24 hours. Or you just send texts to your phone and reply to them to earn credits when you need them. Weird.

Regardless, the very fact that none of the news channels that have reported this story have mentioned that the service isn’t really working yet shows that not many people have bothered to actually try it out!

With texting being so cheap already, we figure this new service, once it actually takes off, may only be beneficial to certain segments like college students. I can’t imagine anybody else sitting and texting themselves through chat to earn free credits. Josh Ong of The Next Web points out that Google’s announcement of this free SMS service comes in the wake of Whatsapp striking a deal with Reliance last month for an unlimited SMS plan that will appeal to college students.

This new service will be available to Aircel, Idea, Loop Mobile, MTS, Reliance, Tata DoCoMo, Tata indicom and Vodafone users in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal & Andaman and Nicobar, Assam and other north-eastern states. India is among the 52 countries across Asia, Africa and North America where Google has rolled out this service. The service is available only on desktops and PCs, and not on smart phones and other wireless devices.

You can read more about the service from Google Support here.

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