(Pocket-lint) – Google has had a wide range of video and chat solutions over the years, many discontinued and many overlapping in their offering.
The current selection is Google Meet, Google Hangouts and Google Duo. But which app should you be using and what do they each offer? We’re walking you through the differences to help you decide.
Google Meet had a name change in the last couple of years, previously known as Google Hangouts Meet. It started life as the enterprise video conferencing solution that Google offered. It is available to all Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) users, i.e., those businesses or schools that pay for Google services for their users. It is, essentially, Google’s version of Zoom
coming in three tiers – Google Meet, Google Workspace Essentials and Google Workspace Enterprise.
However, Google made Google Meet available to anyone with a Google account, so it’s free to the public, offering up to 100 callers with no time limit. You can access it on meet.google.com
Google Meet sits alongside Google Chat as part of the communication solution designed for businesses, with Google Chat being an alternative to a service like Slack. Understanding Google Meet and Google Chat is easier when you consider the previous names – Google Hangouts Meet and Google Hangouts Chat. Essentially, they are grown-up versions of Google Hangouts, which is the consumer solution. You can access Chat on chat.google.com
Recently, Google Meet was integrated into Gmail, so you can access the service directly through the mail app
Google Meet is all about video conferencing on the large scale. At a free level you get support up to 100 participants, but there’s support for up to 500 participants or 100,000 viewers on a livestream at the top Enterprise level.
Google has been adding functions to Google Meet to make it more consumer friendly, adding controls, a gallery view, more advanced screen sharing options, including individual Chrome tabs – although some of these controls aren’t as granular as Zoom when it comes to participant control and screen sharing.
Google pushes the security angle, however, saying that it’s encrypted in transmission as well as encrypted when saved on Google Drive. It supports video up to 720p and anyone with a Google account can join a Google Meet.
Google Meet runs in a browser with no need for plug-ins or desktop apps. There are apps for Android and iOS devices. Google says that running in common browsers makes it more secure.
Google Meet is free to all Google Account holders at an entry position.
Google Meet is available to Google Workspace users offering longer meetings and more features, and the price you’ll pay depends on your Workspace edition.
Google Hangouts was announced in 2013, spinning out of Google+. It was integrated into Gmail and other Google applications as a communication tool, joined by Google Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat, for Workspace customers, which now run without the Hangouts in the name, although personal Google account users will still see Hangouts in Gmail. The service can be accessed at hangouts.google.com
Hangouts is due to close soon – many Workspace users have transitioned away from the service (using to use Chat instead), with private users getting a notification that it will be replaced by Google Chat soon. It’s still around however and remains a free video and chat tool for Google account holders, integrated into Gmail and allowing desktop calling with or without video.
While Hangouts was once being positioned as an SMS conversation tool, the rise of Messenger – with support for RCS – has seen this emerge as Google’s natural place for “chat”, but Hangouts still works as a group chat solution for some people.
The appeal of Hangouts mainly came from its easy integration into other Google products and persistent visibility within Gmail, as well as access to history synced across devices meaning that Hangouts can give you synced conversations across a number of devices or platforms.
It supports video calling for up to 10 people for personal users, phone calling via the Hangouts dialler app and messaging for up to 150 users, all of which can be accessed either through a browser or apps on mobile devices. Like Apple’s FaceTime, users can be contacted using Hangouts via an email address.
Hangouts is available through a browser and there are apps for Android and iOS.
Google Hangouts is free, all you need is a Google account to sign in.
Google Duo was announced in 2016 as an equivalent to Apple’s Facetime pushed as a person-to-person video calling app. It has a much more personal feel to it than Hangouts or Meet. You can access Duo on duo.google.com
Google Duo has been gaining popularity as a universal video calling app – supported on both Android and iOS devices (as well as through browsers) – making it an ideal solution for Android to iPhone video calls in the place of FaceTime, although whatsapp video calling
Google Duo will let you place voice or video calls to contacts via phone numbers or email addresses. You can leave video messages for those who can’t answer those calls, which makes it very different to Hangouts and Meets. There’s no support for text messaging or screen sharing like you get in Meet.
Although it’s principally designed for person-to-person calling, Duo will support groups up to 12 people. There’s a low light mode that will boost your video using AI and Google has announced new video codecs to improve the quality of Duo video calls. It also supports AR functions for callers to use.
Duo also has a feature called Knock Knock, which is where your video is shown to the person you are calling when the phone is ringing. It’s like having someone at your door.