Gmail Free SMS, will the local send sms solutions have a chance to survive?

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Google  in partnership with Safaricom launched  a service that will allow subscribers to exchange text messages  via Gmail. Sending and receiving a message from Gmail to any phone is free. When replying with an SMS from phone to Gmail, you will be charged a regular SMS rate by your mobile provider. Gmail SMS is currently available in Kenya with Safaricom but considering the enthusiastic reception it is getting from some of my friends, the other networks would probably be on board soon. From  Google:

You can send SMS messages to your contacts’ mobile phones using Gmail Chat. To do so from Gmail:

  1. Enter your contact’s name in the ‘Search or invite friends’ box in Chat, and select Send SMS from the box of options that appears to the right of your contact’s name. Or, if you already have a Chat window open for this contact, just click Options, and select Send SMS.
  2. In the dialog box, enter a phone number in the ‘Send SMS messages to this number’ field. For now, this feature works only on United States phone numbers. If you’re outside the US, you can still use it, but you won’t see the SMS option in Chat until you enable it manually in the Chat settings page.
  3. Click Save.
  4. A Chat window appears. Just type your message as you would normally. When you hit Enter, the message will be sent to the phone number you entered.

If your contact replies, the text message response will appear as a reply in Chat. These conversations are stored in your Chat history just like regular chats (but keep in mind that you can’t go off the record while communicating via SMS).

chat settings

chat settings

Now you can send sms

gmail2

The number of smses allowed are  50 going with the number next to “Messages remaining” link but i am not sure of the duration after using the  indicated 50

According to Wikipedia without accurate reference point, text messaging is the most widely used data application in the world, with 2.4 billion active users, or 74% of all mobile phone subscribers. Back here, Kenyans love texting. Chief reason being it is easier to keep private than a phone  call. Texting is easier, quicker, more private, and to the point. Plus, it can be done from anywhere, whether in a meeting, class, church(don’t look at me like that,  people even tweet in churches these days).

We have talked about the cost of texting here in relation to the size of the data send. At the moment Orange and Zain both charge 1 per sms while Yu charges 50 cent per sms.  The cost of sending 1 Sms through Safaricom is more expensive than calling for 1 minute onnet.

So who is paying who here between Safaricom and Google? Sending sms through Google means free and less texting through Safaricom, that is a loss of bussiness. So the assumption is that Google paid Safaricom to allow sending sms through their network.  Understandable but where does this leave the local upcoming startups like Sembuse and Tuma Sms na Whive basically doing the same thing?  Yeah i know the developers should be innovative, competitive and the bla bla bla..but that is easier said than done until you understand who you are against.  The government should find a way of protecting the local startups, i am not sure how but if it means going Chinese way of doing it, then let it  be.  Regardless of what one might think, small businesses are the backbone of many economies around the world including the US. Here is US President Facebook news feed:

“Barack Obama Small businesses are the anchors of our Main Streets. That’s why I fought so hard to pass this bill. And that’s why I’m going to continue to do everything in my power to help small businesses open up, hire and expand.”

Yes, he is doing that, but is there anybody in Kenya thinking about small businesses? President? Prime Minister? Finance Minister? CCK???????

If we can’t protect the growth of local small businesses then i don’t understand why we should continue  shouting about vision 2030 everyday..   It becomes a complete waste of time..actually vanity and pointless.

What is your opinion on the topic?
Kennedy Kachwanya
Lead Blogger at Kachwanya.com
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Kennedy Kachwanya is a technology blogger interested in mobile phones both smart and dumb, mobile apps, mobile money, social media, startups ecosystem and digital Savannah. New media must not forget the strength of old tech.
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