Update:Back on Oct. 30, I wrote about Google expanding its chat feature in Gmail to include SMS messaging. The feature lets users send free text messages from their desktop computers to friends' mobile phones.
I raved about how great this service was, only to find out the following weekend that Google had run into a snag in turning on the feature for everyone.
More than 40 days later, Google has fixed the persistent bugs and is rolling out Short Message Service text messaging for Gmail chat. Caveat: You must have a U.S. phone number for it to work. Sorry.
To turn it on in Gmail, click on Settings and go to the Labs tab. Find "Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat," select Enable and choose Save Changes. *To send a text message to a friend, type a phone number into the search box in the chat window on the left, then select "Send SMS." You can also select the contact you want to SMS first and then add their phone number.
Just as with e-mail contacts, Google will save your friends' numbers. The next time you text someone, just type their name in the chat box and click Send SMS.
One cool thing that I neglected to describe clearly last time I chronicled it was what it looks like on the receiving end. When you get a text message from Gmail on your phone, it will come from a number in the 406 area code. Google Product Manager Leo Dirac explains in this blog post:
"You can reply to this text on your phone just like you'd reply to any other text. The reply gets routed back to our Gmail servers and shows up in your friend's Gmail chat window. Each of your friends' messages will come from a different 406 number so you can reply to any message and it will get back to the right person. Messages from the same person will always come from the same number, so you can even bookmark it in your phone."
I also learned something new about this service. If you get a message from somebody you don't want to chat with from your phone, just reply "block," and if you don't want to get texts from anybody using Gmail, reply "stop" and Google will nip it in the bud on its servers.
Dirac was also kind enough to note that the text messages count as part of users' regular mobile messaging plan and could incur fees. That's something I should have told my wife at the time. We learned the hard way. Whoops! :)
Please enable it in your iPhones, BlackBerrys, G1s or whatever you use and give it a whirl. What do you think? I wish Google would toss the character cap, how about you?