27 November 2014

Send SMS text messages for free to Israel & the US via Gmail

SMS text messages are a quick and convenient way to get in touch with someone, but as the month rolls on they can start to take a bite out of your wallet.  For those in the know, Gmail offers a solution that can help keep your SMS cost in check.

How to SMS for free
If you have a Gmail account, from the convenience of your e-mail inbox, you can send SMS text messages for free.

One-time setup

  1. Log into the Labs section of Gmail Settings
  2. Enable the “SMS in Chat gadget”
  3. Click “Save Changes”

Sending

  • If your Google Contacts are up-to-date, you can SMS immediately by typing the contact’s name in the “Chat” box and selecting “Send SMS.”
  • Otherwise, the first time you send to a contact, you can begin typing the phone number to where you would like to send the SMS into either the “Chat” or “Send SMS” box.  You will be asked to name the contact and confirm the country and phone number.  After the first time, you should be able to type the person’s name in the “Chat” box and select “Send SMS.”
  • When the chat box opens, type your message.

Receiving replies

  • Any messages you send can be replied to by the recipient.
  • The replies will appear in Gmail, either in a chat box or as an e-mail depending on whether you are online or offline when the reply is received.

Destinations / providers included
The list of destinations included is growing slowly, but includes some useful destinations already.  In Israel, Orange and Pelephone are included (but not Cellcom or Mirs).  All carriers in the United States are supported.  A number of additional destinations are included as well.

Limitations
You are allocated a quota of 50 messages to start.  As you use them, the quota decreases.  However, your quota will be replenished slowly with time or if someone replies to an SMS you send from Gmail at the ratio of 5 credits to your quota for every 1 message reply you receive.  If you start running low, you can effectively “buy” more messages by sending an SMS to yourself (if you have a phone from a supported provider such as Orange or Pelephone) and replying.

 

How much money will you save by SMSing through Gmail when you’re at home or at work?

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Comments

  1. Another great tip ! Did you know? http://t.co/t5pqIxlAtZ

  2. Becca says:

    I’ve also noticed that you can’t send SMSs to Rami Levy phones, which is annoying.
    But other then that it’s really useful, it saves a lot of money. I use it a lot.

    • I am glad to hear it’s helping you save, Becca!

      The only Israeli cellular companies that are currently supported by Gmail’s free SMS feature are Pelephone and Orange. Interestingly, another commenter also reported that Rami Levy isn’t supported despite the fact that it uses Pelephone’s network. Let’s hope Gmail strikes deals with all of the new cellular providers.

  3. I switched to Rami Levi from Orange (kept my number) and now the SMS from G-mail doesn’t work anymore since Rami Levi uses the Pelephone network. Could be someone switching from Pelephone won’t have a problem. I hear that Dor Alon will soon be starting their MVNO service and will be using Orange’s network. I may switch to them just to get this feature back!

    • Thanks for letting us know, Josh! That is interesting that Rami Levi doesn’t work through Gmail despite the fact that it is using Pelephone’s network. I would be very interested to hear if any of the other new players work through Gmail.

      • Hi all,
        I have the same problem my husband phone is 052 but actually uses Orange as a provider. I was able to send him SMS until a few days ago, seems that something changed in GMail. Does anyone knows if there is a solution?

        • Sorry to hear about your problem, Olga. I have an 052 number that was ported to Pelephone, and I can receive SMSs sent from Gmail after my move. Maybe it’s a temporary issue? I hope it works out for you.

  4. Do you know how much it costs people with pelephone or orange to reply to these smses?
    I received an sms via gmail, and couldn’t reply because apparently my pelephone settings are blocked to reply to these smses at the moment – which leads me to believe a reply costs more than a normal sms.. ?

    • Tali, that’s interesting that you experienced that. I believe it is charged at the rate of a normal SMS. This is the message that Pelephone subscribers receive when they first get an SMS from someone via Gmail:

      המענה בשירות לפי תעריף “משלוח הודעות מהמכשיר” שבתעריפון פלאפון לשירותים עיקריים. תעריפי SMS ייחודיים וחבילות אינם חלים

      I think it means that the regular rate for SMSs will be charged. However, if you have a package of (regular) SMSs, it won’t be deducted from the package but will instead be charged at the normal rate separately.

  5. I am also here via Janglo. Looking froward to spending time here. check out my site too – it dovetails with yours i believe

  6. Just want to say that i found your blog via Janglo and am loving it!!!! Keep up the good work. Love, your fans over at The Big Felafel.

  7. I used to be able to do this using the Chat Gadget from GMail and Google Chat from Israel but somehow all SMS functionality disappeared from the user interface. Last week I double check my settings and it looked like the SMS options were enabled in GMail Labs but I still had no “Send SMS” box nor was there a “Send SMS” option when I typed in a number. Today I checked the settings again and noticed the SMS options are disabled and sure enough when I re-enabled them them missing functionality re-appeared.

    • Ezra, that’s a good point, and thanks for sharing the tip. I, too, have found that once in a while the option disappears. But, when I disable it and save it, then re-enable and save it, things are back in working order.

  8. Yes, unfortunately your answer reverberates with my expectations. I use Orange. I was hoping to be able to SMS my students, many of whom use Celcom. I guess not!
    Rahel

  9. What can we do to persuade Gmail to include Cellcom and Mirs on the list of possible providers of SMS service?

    thanks,

    Rahel

    • Rahel, you can always contact them, but I wouldn’t hold out much hope at least for Cellcom. Cellcom was included previously, but severed their relationship with Gmail and ICQ (who also offered free SMS to Cellcom at the time) nearly two years ago. It seems to be a “strategic” decision on Cellcom’s part.

      From a consumer’s perspective, all other conditions being equal, it makes sense to choose Orange or Pelephone as your provider over Cellcom because it lets your friends and family in Israel and abroad contact you via SMS for free.

  10. Shalom!
    I understand that, in Israel, Gmail’s free SMS program features Pelephone and Orange (and not Cellcom or Rami Levi). Which cell phone companies are supported in the US? thanks, Rahel

  11. Rahel, as stated in the article above and Google’s list of supported mobile operators, all US mobile carriers are supported.

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