Last year, Google announced that the future of Gmail will see Chat messaging and group Rooms join the existing Meet video calling integration. This is already available to enterprise Workspace users, and Google is now letting personal Gmail accounts get this “integrated workspace.”
Update 6/16: On Monday, Google launched “Workspace for everyone” and officially publicized the ability for free, personal accounts to turn on Google Chat in Gmail. If you visit settings to enable, the Google Chat option no longer has an “Early Access” badge. It comes ahead of Rooms being renamed to Spaces and the Gmail web client getting revamped navigation this summer.
How to turn on new Gmail with Chat, Rooms
Android and iOS
- Open Settings (at bottom of nav drawer)
- Tap personal Gmail account
- Under General, select “Chat”
- Click “Try it”
- Gmail app relaunches with tutorial and prompt to turn off notifications from standalone Google Chat app (if installed)
- Visit mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#settings/chat
- Select “Google Chat” instead of “Classic Hangouts”
- Confirm pop-up box
Update 5/12: The new Gmail with access to Chat and Rooms is now available on iOS for free Google Accounts. This capability went live sometime in the past month for iPhone and iPad. Full instructions are available below.
Original 4/4: This merger comes as Google wants to make Gmail your new “home for work.” The goal is to let users get everything done in one page without having to keep switching between other tabs. Since you’re likely to have Gmail open on desktop, that’s where Google is integrating everything.
Gmail now has four main sections. “Mail” and “Meet” have been in place for the past few months. “Chat” is where you can message individual and small groups, while “Rooms” — like their Slack equivalents — are dedicated to larger conversations with shared chat, files, and tasks.
This manifests as a bottom bar with four tabs on Android, while the Gmail sidebar on the web is split into four sections. They are shown by default, but can be quickly hidden by clicking the chevron. Tapping a “Chat” opens that conversation in the bottom-right corner of your screen. Rooms open full-screen and replace the default list of messages. As seen below, one feature coming “in the future” is the ability to have picture-in-picture Meet calls in Gmail.
Functionality of these two new tabs are identical to the standalone Google Chat app with users able to delete the dedicated client. Next to the search bar, which can now look up both “mail and chat,” on the web is a status indicator (Automatic, Do not disturb, Set as away), with these controls in the Gmail navigation drawer on mobile. Other changes include updated “outline” icon designs throughout the web interface.
Many free personal Google accounts today can enable the new Gmail with Chat on both Android and web. This experience is not yet available for the iOS application. Enterprise accounts need the permission of their admins. Be sure to have the latest version of Gmail installed from the Play Store to get started, with Google warning how “you might experience bugs and other issues.”
To get access, you have to enable Chat “Early Access” on each of your Android devices and the web, as well as Google Accounts. Activating on one does not bring the new experience to all your Gmail instances.