How to reduce data usage in Google Meet

The following steps can minimize the bandwidth impact of video meetings and stay under ISP data caps.

Drawing of Google Meet logo (left) with down-pointing arrow and word Data (right)

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Video tends to use a lot of data and that can cause bandwidth and data limit problems. Bandwidth limitations can be an issue, especially in the U.S., where uplink speeds tend to be significantly lower than downlink speeds. In a work-from-home setting, three or four people—with each person in a different video meeting—can rapidly saturate available uplink bandwidth on many home networks. Similarly, if you spend many hours a month video conferencing, all of that data counts toward your internet service provider data cap, which can be especially constraining on mobile networks.

People who use Google Meet, on mobile or desktop devices, might use the first three options below to minimize the amount of data used for video meetings. If you're a Google Workspace administrator, the fourth item covers how you may change an admin setting for Meet to limit video bandwidth, as well.

SEE: Google Sheets: Tips and tricks (free PDF) (TechRepublic) 

1. Google Meet on mobile: How to limit data usage 

The Google Meet mobile apps include a Limit Data Usage option (sometimes referred to by Google as Meet Saver Mode). According to a Google Workspace blog post, the setting helps "limit data use, conserving data on your mobile plan, conserve battery power [and] lower the demand on your phone's CPU." Currently, the feature is available in Google Meet on Android, and has been announced for Google Meet on iOS. On Android, tap the three-horizontal line menu (upper-left) | Settings then adjust the slider next to Limit Data Usage (Figure A).

Figure A 

Three Google Meet Android app screenshots: (left) Three-horizontal line menu circled in upper-left, (middle) Settings circled, (right) Limit data usage slider moved to the right.

Select Limit Data Usage in Google Meet on Android.

2. Google Meet on the web: How to reduce resolution

When you use Google Meet in a desktop-class web browser, reduce the video resolution and you'll reduce the amount of data transmitted. For example, in Google Meet on a Chromebook, select the three-vertical dot menu (lower-right corner) | Settings (as shown in Figure B) | Video, then modify the video Send or Receive resolution (Figure C). When both settings are at 720p, images should display with greater resolution, but you'll also typically be using more data. The 360p option reduces both the resolution and bandwidth required for your video conference.

Figure B 

Screenshot of Google Meet in Chrome, with the Settings menu displayed in the lower-right of an active Google Meet session.

On the web, first select the three-dot menu in the lower-right, then Settings.

Figure C 

Screenshot of Video Receive resolution options: Auto; High definition (720p); Standard definition (360p); Standard definition (360p), one video at a time; Audio only.

Select a lower resolution setting for your video send and/or receive settings in Google Meet on the web.

3. How to use audio-only

To reduce bandwidth requirements even more, turn off your video camera entirely (Figure D). If everyone in your Google Meet session does this, you've now successfully replicated the core user experience of a conference call. However, you still have access to Chat within Google Meet, as well as all activities, such as Polls or Q&A features. For more details, read: 9 tips for audio conferencing with Google Meet.

Figure D 

Screenshot of an active Google Meet session with the icon for the Video camera red, since the camera is turned off.

If video isn't necessary, turn off your video camera. This can significantly reduce the bandwidth and data used by Google Meet.

4. Google Workspace Admin: How to limit video bandwidth

A Google Workspace administrator may choose three different default video quality settings for people in the organization (Figure E). The setting affects the uplink video quality when people use Google Meet in a browser, not when they use the Google Meet mobile app on Android or iOS. 

Figure E 

Screenshot of Google Workspace Admin setting that displays the three options, with the Limited video bandwidth selected. Save button is highlighted and needs to be selected to make the change.

A Google Workspace administrator may choose from three Google Meet video uplink quality options: Adjust Automatically (default), Limited Video Bandwidth and Audio Only.

The default setting lets the system auto-adjust the bandwidth used. For example, if you're the only one on your high speed network, it might send high-resolution video, but if the system detects congestion, it can reduce the resolution. In most cases, video conferencing quality will be best if you leave the setting at the default option.

In some cases, however, it may make sense to limit the video bandwidth used by Google Meet. For example, an administrator in a nonprofit organization or school environment might wish to reduce the bandwidth impact of video conferences. A Limited Video Bandwidth caps uplink usage at 1 Mbps as the default, while an even more limited option sets Audio Only—with the video camera off by default. 

Note: People still have the option to turn on their video camera. This setting simply sets a less-bandwidth intensive option as the default and caps the upstream data usage.

What are your Google Meet video defaults?

If you use Google Meet, what video resolution settings do you typically use? What impact has the Limit Data Usage option on Android made in your Meet conferencing experiences? Do you often simply turn off video and switch to audio-only conferencing? Let me know how you typically adjust the video and audio settings in Meet, either with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber). 

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