Google Meet video-conferencing and chat app: A cheat sheet

Google's contender in the video-conferencing and virtual-meeting arena is Google Meet. This handy cheat sheet will tell you everything you need to know about the app and what it has to offer.

Video chat apps: What to consider when choosing between Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or another platform
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Video-conferencing software continues to act as the glue that binds organizations together in the remote-working landscape, with innumerable platform providers vying for our attention. This includes advertising-to-cloud-computing giant Google, which offers its Google Meet video-conferencing solution as part of its G Suite package as well as a standalone service for anyone with a Gmail address.

As with many video-conferencing apps, Google Meet has seen a huge upswing in users since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the company, Meet has seen peak daily usage grow 30 times since January, with the service now hosting three billion minutes of video meetings and adding roughly three million new users every day. On top of that, the app has now surpassed 50 million downloads on the Google play Store.

Still, Google Meet isn't short on competition, with Microsoft Teams and Zoom also key competitors in this space. Zoom in particular presents a significant challenge to Google Meet, having experienced explosive growth since February 2020 and becoming nearly synonymous with the concept of video meetings and remote working.

SEE: Cheat sheet: Google Meet video-conferencing and chat app (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Needless to say, this is an image that Google and other rival video-conferencing platforms are desperate to shake, evidenced by what seems to have become a near-continuous stream of updates to video chat apps over the past few weeks.

We've already taken a look at how Google Meet compares with the likes of Zoom, Teams, Cisco WebEx and BlueJeans. If you're looking to find out more on what Meet has to offer, and whether it's a viable video-conferencing solution for your business, this guide is here to tell you what you need to know.

What is Google Meet?

Google Meet is an enterprise video-conferencing service from Google that supports chat, one-on-one video calls and group video meetings. Google Meet users can chat with other participants, share videos, presentations and slides from their desktop in real-time, as well as stream live events.

Google Meet was formerly called Google Hangouts Meets, before Google split the app into two different services: Meet for video conferencing, and Google Chat for text-based messaging. Google Meet is Google's answer to video-conferencing and chat apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, which are considered rival services.

Google Meet is available via web browser at meet.google.com and can also be accessed from within G Mail, G Suite and through a mobile app. Google Meet is compatible with Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, Linux and Android and iOS devices.

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How do I use Google Meet?

As you'd expect from a Google product, the app is extremely straightforward and user-friendly, particularly if your organization is already using Google apps and services.

To use Google Meet, you first need to sign in with your Google Account. It can also be accessed from within Google's Gmail browser app, and through dedicated mobile apps for Android and iOS devices. You can also schedule a Google Meet meeting through the Google Calendar application.

Start a video meeting from Meet, enter https://meet.google.com then click Join or Start a Meeting. Once you've joined a meeting, you can invite other people to join the from the 'Add people' section.

To start a meeting from Gmail, open Gmail in a web browser and then click 'Start a meeting' in sidebar. Once you're in the meeting, you add other people by sharing the meeting code or by adding someone by email address or phone call from the 'Add people' section.

To schedule a video meeting from Google Calendar, simply create an event, add guests and click 'Add Google Meet video conferencing'.

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The free version of Google Meet supports group video meetings of up to 100 people.

Image: Google

Is Google Meet free?

Google Meet is available for free to everyone with a Google Account. The free version of Google Meet offers group video calls with up to 100 participants, with meetings capped at 60 minutes.

Google Meet for G Suite supports group video meetings with up to 250 participants and also allows live streaming events for up to 100,000 people. G Suite customers have the added option of recording meetings from Google Meet onto Google Drive.

SEE: All of TechRepublic's cheat sheets and smart person's guides

Google is offering premium Google Meet features to all users until 30 September. This means that people using the free version of Google Meet will be able to hold larger meetings for up to 250 people, live stream events up to 100,000 people and record meetings to Google Drive through to October 2020.

Beyond this date, free users who want to keep making use of Google Meet's premium features will have to pay for a G Suite subscription. These start at $6.00 per month.

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Will I need G Suite to use Google Meet after 30 September?

No. Anyone with a Google Account – that is, a Gmail address – can use Google Meet for free. However, after 30 September only paying G Suite customers will continue to receive premium features, including a dial-in option, larger and longer meetings and event livestreaming.

G Suite is essentially Google's answer to Microsoft 365, offering a library of Google-branded collaboration and productivity tools including Docs, Sheets, Slides and Keep. G Suite available in Basic, Business and Enterprise editions, with additional versions available for specific sectors such as healthcare, education and non-profit.

All versions of G Suite include access to Google Meet. You can read more information on how to choose the right G Suite edition for your enterprise here.

What other features does Google Meet have?

Google recently added a bevvy of new features to Google Meet to help support people working remotely, as well as ensure the video conferencing app stays fresh in the face of competition. It also benefits from some of Google's AI technologies, which have been added to help meetings run more smoothly and make it more accessible.

  • An expanded tiled layout that lets Google Meet web users see up to 16 participants on screen at once.
  • The option to present a Chrome tab instead of just presenting a window or entire screen, to provide high-quality video with audio. 
  • A low-light mode that uses AI to automatically adjust a user's video to make them more visible to other participants, if lighting conditions are poor. This feature is currently rolling out to mobile users, and will be available to web users in the future. 
  • Noise cancellation to help filter out and limit background noise, for example keystrokes and pets.
  • Live captioning during meetings powered by Google's speech-recognition technology.

What is the difference between Google Meet, Hangouts and Google Duo?

Google already has a number of video and chat services, and Google's habit of pivoting to new things quickly is understandably confusing. Such is the case with Google Meet, which replaces Google Hangouts Meet, but also sits alongside it to some degree.

Quite simply, what was Google Hangouts now consists of two separate apps: Google Meet and Google Chat. Both are designed for workplace collaboration and video conferencing, with Google Meet acting as Google's answer to Zoom and Google Chat as the software giant's solution to Slack.

Google Duo, meanwhile, is a more straightforward video calling app and Google's answer to the likes of Facebook Messenger and FaceTime for iOS. You can make video calls with Google Duo, but you're limited to up to 12 people – although rumors abound this will be upped to 32. Google Duo offers more consumer-focused features like filters and emojis. You can also record video messages to send to your contacts.

What are Google Meet's main competitors?

As we mentioned, use of video conferencing and other workplace collaboration tools have hit record highs in recent weeks, owing to the remote-working and social-distancing measures imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The main competitors to Google's video conferencing app are Zoom and Microsoft Teams. They each offer somewhat of the same core functionality, but vary in terms of the features and experience they provide, who they're aimed at, and pricing models.

Zoom offers video and audio calling as well as text chat. The Free version of the app can host up to 100 participants and unlimited one-on-one meetings, with video calls capped at 40 minutes.

The Pro version costs $14.99 a month and offers all the capabilities of the free app, as well as 24-hour meeting duration, an admin console, 1GB cloud storage for recordings and scheduling tools.

Above that are the Business versions of Zoom, which offer support for between 300 and 1,000 participants and extras including dedicated phone support, single sign-on, automatic transcription of meeting recordings and managed domains.

Zoom has previously drawn criticism for flaws in the platform's security, which the company has attempted to address in numerous updates to the service in recent weeks. Zoom 5.0 is the latest version of the software and brings much-needed additions such as encryption, waiting rooms and password protection.

Microsoft Teams is part of Microsoft's 365 package. Because it's Windows software, Teams is tied to Office 365 software like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. This means that Teams users can share and collaborate on Office documents in real-time and save work automatically in the cloud.

Microsoft Teams is also available in both free without an Office 365 subscription, which users can sign up for using their email address. The Free edition of Teams offers video calls with up to 250 participants.

Office 365 subscriptions start at $8 per month, which brings support for live event streaming over Teams to up to 10,000 people. 

How do I get the most out of Google Meet?

You can make video conferences better for everyone no matter what software you use by checking out our extensive library of video-conferencing and remote-working resource guides: