Last month, Google opened up the Gmail and Drive sidebar to third-party G Suite add-ons. On the first-party front, that space has only ever shown Google Calendar, Keep, and Tasks. Google Voice now looks to be making an appearance in Gmail’s side panel.
Some customers with a G Suite Business domain today noticed the Google Voice icon appearing underneath Tasks and just above the list of third-party add-ons. Tapping launches a compact Voice app that’s entirely dedicated to calling.
“Make a call” opens the existing dialer interface that you encounter on voice.google.com. Above the bottom number pad is a suggestions list with frequent contacts. Your Voice number is prominently listed and outgoing calls are fully handled in the sidebar, while there’s a shortcut in the top-right corner to launch the full web client.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Google Voice add-on in the Gmail side panel shows your complete call history with each line item featuring a shortcut to quickly call back. Unlike existing first-party ones that are passive, Voice will flash, ring, and pop-up a dialog during incoming calls even if the side panel isn’t expanded.
Google Voice is a part of a G Suite and mainly aimed at giving employees a work phone number. The focus on calling versus text messaging (or even voicemail) makes sense for this context. It’s somewhat similar to the old, but still present Hangouts integration that should be removed when the classic messaging service is deprecated for business customers.
In fact, Google Voice currently only appears in the Gmail side panel, and not Drive, Docs/Sheets/Slides, or Calendar for users seeing this launch. Given the direct classic Hangouts replacement nature, this again makes sense. The side panel launched in 2018 with Gmail’s Material Theme revamp before expanding to other Google apps on the web.