In October, Google toyed around with a feature that let you send SMS text messages from Gmail. After hitting a few snags, the company ended up pulling it. Now, this feature is back, and it appears it’s here to stay. This new Labs feature combines IM and texting, allowing you to chat from your computer and making it possible for your friends to receive your messages on their mobile phones.
To check out this feature, click Settings and then go to the Labs tab. Scroll down until you see Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat and then select Enable and Save Changes.
According to the Google blog, Google is trying this feature with cell phones in the United States for the time being. Technically speaking, you can be anywhere in the world, only you have to send the text messages to a US phone number.
You can type numbers directly into the search box of the chat window to begin sending messages, or you can select a contact and add their phone number. Google will save your friends’ numbers so they’re easily accessible for next time.
Whenever you send a message, your recipients will receive a text from Gmail with a number in the 406 area code. They can then reply to this text just as they would any other, with the response going back to the Gmail servers and showing up in your Gmail chat window. Each message will come from a different 406 number, so your friends can reply with confidence knowing it will reach you. Furthermore, any message from the same person will always use the same number, which is especially handy for anyone who wants to add the number to their phone’s address book.
The service itself is free, but Google cautions that all of the text messages received and sent from a mobile phone will count as part of your regular messaging plan. Therefore, if your friends don’t have unlimited texting, you’ll want to use this service sparingly. Should you be on the receiving side of things and don't want to chat from your phone, all you have to do is reply with the word BLOCK. Furthermore, if you don’t want to receive texts from anyone using Gmail, simply reply with the word STOP.
Although Google isn’t the first chat service to offer SMS messaging, it’s still a handy feature, especially if you’re already an avid Gmail user.