If you own a feature phone that can access the internet and an Airtel SIM card, you can now use Google services – Gmail, Google+ and Google Search – at zero charge. This is made possible by Free Zone, a Google initiative aimed at improving internet adoption rates in emerging regions. As reported on Vanguard News, Airtel customers can opt in by texting “Free Zone” to 881, or by going to http://g.co/freezone from their phone’s default browser.

Free Zone is targeted primarily at feature-phones but you should be able to use it on your smartphone. APN settings may have to be tweaked to avoid background data charges from third-party apps. There are more caveats to using Free Zone:

  • No third-party apps allowed. You can only use Free Zone via your phone’s default browser. Opera Mini may be the only exception to this rule.
  • If you need to open an email attachment or link out of Gmail and Google+, you will be notified of possible data charges.
  • Clicking on links from the Google Search results page is free but any links clicked other than from the search results page will be charged. There are no limits to how many searches you can make.
  • Free Zone will not work for any Google account with 2-step verification enabled.
  • Only @gmail accounts allowed. Google Apps accounts will not work with Free Zone.
  • There is a fair usage cap of 1GB per month.

If you’re cool with all of these conditions, go ahead and jump right into the world of free internet from Google.

Muyiwa Matuluko Author

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