On Halloween, reports did the rounds that the Gmail engineers would be further expanding the possibilities for the left-nav panel, (which users can already set include chat, calender and Docs) to allow users send a message from inside Gmail by entering the recipient mobile phone number into the chat window. The tool did launch on October 31 but was pulled because of a glitch that made the experience not as smooth as it could be. Product Manager, Leo Dirac, officially announced the feature today in the Gmail Blog.
So just to refresh on how it works. Users select the contact they want to SMS first and then add their phone number. Gmail saves the contact so from then on you can just enter their name into the box whenever you want to text them. The recipient will get your message, listed as coming from a 406 area code. Replies get routed back through the Gmail Server and show up in the sender’s Gmail Chat window. Each contact that texts you will be assigned a different 406 number allowing you to reply to any message and rest assured your message will get to the right person.
So the question we asked was what happens if I don’t want every needy loser on my Gmail list messaging me while I’m in the shower, making dinner, watching TV, reading, sleeping, or basically doing anything that isn’t talking to them? I reply BLOCK and they can’t text me anymore, that’s what happens. In the event I don’t want anyone messaging me at all, I can reply STOP and Google will make the nice people on the Internet go away. Handy. The texts work as normal, meaning they count as part of your messaging plan so don’t get all weepy if you get your bill and have been charged for a bajillion text messages to random 406 numbers.
Check out SMS for Gmail by activating Text Messaging (SMS) in Labs.