3 apps to get started with Google Workspace on a smartphone

People new to Workspace will likely want to install Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive on Android or iOS devices. This walk-through explains the steps.

Photo of iPhone screen with 3 app icons displayed: Gmail, Google Calendar and Drive.

Photo: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

When people join an organization that uses Google Workspace, the IT team typically helps people get set up and ready to use the various Workspace apps. On desktop systems, that typically involves installing a couple of apps and configuring a few settings (see 5 steps to help your users get started with Google Workspace).

The Google Workspace setup process varies significantly on smartphones. On company-owned devices, you might choose to install every available Google Workspace Android or iOS mobile app. By my count, that would easily mean more than 10 apps to install.

As your IT team members help people new to Workspace get started on a smartphone, I recommend you install and focus attention on the following three core Workspace mobile apps: Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive. With these apps, people may manage communication, coordinate calendars and access Drive files from a phone. (And as people sign in and get set up, you might explain how to configure notifications and conduct searches within all three of these apps.)

SEE: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365: A side-by-side analysis (TechRepublic Premium)

How to install and sign in to the Gmail app

First, download the Gmail app to your device. Tap the app to open it, then follow the prompts to sign in with your Google Workspace account. The app often highlights new features the first time you open it.

The Gmail app actually handles three tasks: email, chat and conferencing. As within Gmail on the web, Gmail on mobile bundles access to Google Chat (messaging) and Google Meet (conferencing, as shown in Figure A, left). No longer do you need to install three different apps for these features. Instead, install Gmail and enable access to Chat and Meet within the settings (as shown in Figure A, right). Modern Gmail is one app with three messaging methods.

Figure A

Two screenshots: (left) Meet screen, with New meeting and Join a meeting options, displayed in the Gmail app on Android, and (right) Gmail settings screen on iOS, with Chat and Meet both set to show, under General settings.

The modern Gmail mobile app manages not only email, but also Meet (as shown on Android, left) and Chat. However, you may need to enable both Chat and Meet in the Gmail settings (as shown on iOS, right).

How to install and sign in to the Google Calendar app

Next, install the Google Calendar app and sign in to it with your Google Workspace account. On mobile, Google Calendar syncs and allows you access to the same set of calendars you have available in Google Calendar on the web, such as calendars shared by colleagues (Figure B, right), as well as any third-party calendars you've added. Within the Google Calendar app you may add events, tasks and reminders and configure Out Of Office settings and notifications (Figure B, left).

Figure B

Two screenshots: (left) General settings in Google Calendar Android app, with Notify on this device slider set to on, and (right) Available calendars, with four selected to show (Events, Tasks, Reminders, and Liz Wolber -- the calendar for the author's spouse) in the settings.

Within the Google Calendar app on mobile, customize notifications (on Android, left) and select which calendars display (on iOS, right).

How to install and sign in to the Google Drive app

Now, install the Google Drive app and sign in to it with your Google Workspace account. The Drive app provides access to the organizational files — those on My Drive as well as any Shared Drives you may access. You can search and sort files (Figure C, left), as well as customize notifications (Figure C, right). Additionally, having the Google Drive app installed makes it easy to upload photos and files from your phone to Google Drive.

Figure C

Two screenshots: (left) Drive on Android, with folder sort items set to display items "Last modified by me" and (right) Drive on iOS, with Notifications enabled, and set to notify me about changes to Shared items, Requests for access, and Comments.

The Google Drive mobile app lets you search and sort (as in the Android app, left) Drive files in various ways, as well as configure notifications (as in the iOS app, right).

If you plan to create or edit files from your phone, you also might install the Google Docs, Sheets or Slides mobile apps, too. However, this is entirely optional. When helping people get set up with Google Workspace on their first day, I tend to mention these apps, but not install them. The Drive app allows people to preview and comment on Docs, Sheets and Slides files and will prompt people to install the appropriate app when people attempt to create or edit a document, spreadsheet or presentation.

SEE: How to become a Google Docs power user (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

What other Workspace mobile apps do you deploy on day one?

There are many apps beyond Gmail, Calendar and Drive (and Docs, Sheets and Slides) available for people who use Workspace on a smartphone. Install the Chrome browser to access synced history and settings. Or consider Cloud Search to search broadly across your Workspace data, Currents for workplace discussions, Jamboard to draw collaboratively, Google Keep for notes or Google Tasks to manage items to be done. Not to mention Google Voice, which may handle your organization's telephony needs.

What apps do you install when you help a person new to your team set up Google Workspace on a phone? Do you configure the core three apps covered above? Are there additional apps you consider essential? Or do you take an entirely different approach to helping people get started with Workspace on a smartphone? Let me know what you recommend, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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