Google rolling out SMS-based version of Gmail to Africa

Google has rolled out a text message-based iteration of its popular Gmail email client for consumers in Africa who may not enjoy reliable access to the Internet, bringing them on-the-go connectivity to everything from work-related communications to social network notifications.

Gmail users in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya are set to benefit from the new service, which allows the sending and receiving of emails independent of 3G networks or Wi-Fi connectivity via the SMS feature built-in to virtually all mobile devices.

"Gmail SMS automatically forwards your emails as SMS text messages to your phone and you can respond by replying directly to the SMS. You can control the emails received by replying with commands such as MORE, PAUSE and RESUME," said Gora Techav, Google product manager for emerging markets.

"Additionally, compose a new email as an SMS and send to any email address recipient - who will find your message in the right email conversation thread," the post on the company's Africa blog added.

The announcement is potentially huge for handset owners in Africa, where new-fangled smartphones are less common and web access typically more restricted despite widespread adoption of mobile technology.

Google's latest offering means that owners of even the most basic phones will be able to receive emails for free via SMS, with sent communications subject to standard outgoing network rates.

There is no indication as to whether Google plans to expand the service beyond the three countries already outlined if it proves successful.