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It happens to all of us. You’re chatting with someone online through instant messenger and they leave abruptly when you still have something to say. Maybe they lost their Internet connection or maybe they “lost their Internet connection” (you know, the excuse version), but either way, you have something that you still need to say to them. Now you can thanks to the SMS text messaging option now available in Gmail Labs.

The service works great, you simply input your contact’s cell phone number into the Gchat box (or select their name if you already have it saved in their contact information) and click “Send SMS.” This opens a chat box, just like your regular IM box, but when you send the message, it goes to their mobile phone. Best of all, the user who gets the text can respond to that text and it comes back to you in IM form. It’s seamless communication.

Of course, you have to be sure to read the fine print. In the chat windows just above the text area it reads, “USERNAME may be charged for an SMS by their mobile carrier each time you hit enter.” Ah, the joys of SMS fees. I’ll spare you the rant right now, but allow me to direct you to posts showcasing how I feel strongly that text messaging and ringtones are the two greatest rip-offs in modern life.

If this SMS chat feature sounds familiar to you, it might be because Google actually tried to roll it out earlier this year, but had to shut it down due to a glitch. The micro-messaging service Twitter has also recently had to shut down SMS support in some countries, but that had to do with fees (see above) rather than a glitch. Currently, this Gmail SMS feature is only available in the U.S. (Though if friends of yours live in the U.S. and you are elsewhere, you can still use the feature to send them texts.)

Overall, it seems that Google is doing a great job at making Gmail into a one-stop shop for a lot of daily needs. It not only does email, but now you have chat, text messaging and things like to-do lists. Now, if only the service were more reliable (it’s been acting up like crazy for many people over the past several days), I might just make it my homepage.

To use this feature, you’ll have to enable it in the Gmail Labs area.


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