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Google takes two with Gmail-SMS chat

After a hiatus of more than a month, Google has reintroduced a feature to send instant messages to phones via SMS.

Google hopes the second time will be a charm for a Gmail Labs feature that lets people send text messages to people's mobile phones with the company's Web-based e-mail service.

"A few weeks back, we ran into a few snags when we first started rolling this out, but starting today you can turn on text messaging for chat," said Leo Dirac, a Google product manager, in a blog post Wednesday.

After the feature's fleeting debut in October, Google removed it to fix a problem where turning the feature on didn't actually fully turn it on. It took a little longer than two weeks, though.

Gmail is trying again with a feature to send SMS messages from Gmail Chat.
Gmail is trying again with a feature to send SMS messages from Gmail Chat. Google

The feature is available only in the United States for now. To use it, people must first enable it through Gmail Labs, then they can initiate SMS-based instant message chats by typing in a phone number in the chat box on the left of the Gmail page.

People who receive SMS messages from the service will get a return phone number from the 406 area code, which Dirac was happy to point out spells G0O.

Each pairing uses a unique phone number, so a person receiving messages can store a the 406 phone number on his or her phone for future use to communicate with that specific person.

Tactfully, Dirac also observes that sending SMS messages from Gmail might be costing your buddies money, so be judicious.