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What Is Google Meet, and How Can You Use It for Free?

Google Meet logo.
Google

First it was Hangouts, Duo, and Chat, and now Google has released Google Meet. So, how exactly does this new video-conferencing service work, and how does it compare to something like Zoom?

Google Meet Is for Video Calls Big or Small

Until April 2020, to use Google Meet, you had to buy a G Suite plan. Now, though, Google has released a free version, and it’s available to anyone with a Google or Gmail account.

You can create or join a Google Meet, and add up to 100 participants on a video call. At this writing, there isn’t a time limit on calls, but starting September 30, calls will be limited to 60 minutes. This is in stark contrast to Zoom, though, which limits free video conferences to only 40 minutes.

Google Hangouts still exists, and you can use it to chat or conduct video calls with up to 25 participants. Google Duo is the company’s mobile-focused video-chat app. It’s also still alive and thriving, and you can now add up to 12 participants.

Google Meet was designed specifically for large-scale video conferences that can be joined with a link or a code. Like Zoom, businesses and organizations are its target demographic.

Google Meet Video Conference From The Website
Google

You can start a video call, and then share the link or code or invite people via email. Then, just chat away. You can share your screen, switch to a tiled view, turn on live captions, or send text messages, as well. But that’s pretty much it.

Google Meet works in most browsers, but, as it’s a Google product, it works best in Chrome. Unlike Zoom, there isn’t a desktop app, but there are apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android. The apps offer the same functionality as the website.

Google Meet Is a Bare-Bones Zoom Competitor

You can think of Google Meet as a bare-bones version of Zoom. Unlike Zoom, though, Google Meet offers end-to-end encryption on all calls.

With the unlimited free calls feature available until Sept. 30, 2020, Google Meet is a way better deal than Zoom if you don’t need any advanced features.

When it comes to the sheer number of features, however, Google Meet can’t match Zoom. For example, Google Meet’s free plan doesn’t offer recording. You also have to have a Google account to use Google Meet, but Zoom allows anyone with the link to join a video call. That’s a plus for Google Meet when it comes to security, though.

Zoom Meeting Gallery View
Zoom

You also won’t find virtual backgrounds, reactions, or advanced participants control features in Google Meet.

The paid version gives you the ability to record meetings. It also increases the participant count to 250 and includes a live-streaming feature for up to 100,000 viewers. However, all of this requires a G Suite subscription, and those start at $6 per month.

It’s not really a fair comparison as G Suite also gives you access to many enterprise-level Google tools, but compared to Zoom Pro’s $15 per month plan, that’s quite expensive.

But if you’ve been using Zoom Pro for meetings to avoid the 40-minute time limit, you should at least try Google Meet. If all you need is a simple video-conferencing service that works for all your team members, Google Meet’s free plan might be enough for you.

How to Use Google Meet

Once you’re prepared for your video conference, just head over to Google Meet and click “Start a Meeting.”

Click on Start a Meet on Google Meet

Take a look at your microphone and camera settings, and then click “Join Now.”

Configure your camera and then click Join Now

Instantly, Google Meet will start the video call for you. A popup will give you the sharing information. From there, you can copy the link or invite people via email. Share the link with the participants you want to add.

Click Copy Joining info

After they receive and open the link, they’ll be able to configure their video and microphone settings. They can also choose to disable both if they want.

They can also switch to a different Google account before they join the call. Once they’re ready, they just click “Ask to Join.”

Click on Ask to Join to Join Google Meet call

The host (you) will be notified that someone wants to join the meeting.

You’ll see the name associated with their Google account. After you verify that it’s the right person, click “Admit” to add that person to the meeting. You’ll then need to do this for each of the invitees.

Click on Admit to add user to Google Meet call

Once the call has started, you can use the Microphone and Video buttons to enable or disable your microphone and camera, respectively.

You can click “Turn On Captions” to enable live audio transcription. As this is a Google service, Meet is really good at transcribing live voice (including censoring curse words).

Captions in Google Meet

You can click “Present Now” if you want to share your screen.

Click Present Now in Google Meet to share your screen or window

From there, you can choose to share your entire screen, a window, or just a Chrome tab.

Choose to share screen, window, or Chrome tab in Google Meet

Once you’re done, click “You are Presenting.” Just click “Stop Presenting” whenever you want to stop sharing.

Click on Stop Presenting to stop sharing your screen

To change your settings, click the Menu button in the bottom toolbar.

Click the menu button from Google Meet

Click “Full Screen” if you want to enlarge the window to fill your entire screen. You can also click “Change Layout” to switch to a different format.

Click Change Layout

You can choose “Tiled” for a Zoom-style gallery view that allows you to see all the participants (only 16 will fit on one screen, though).

Switch to Tiled view in Google Meet

If you want to change the audio or video device or switch the video resolution between 360p and 720p, click the Settings option.

Google Meet Audio and Video Settings

You can click “Chat” at the top if you want to send a message to everyone on the call.

Chat feature in Google Meet

You can also click “People” at the top to see all the participants. You can then select a participant to view more options. Click the Pin icon to pin that person to the chat screen.

The Mute button will mute that participant for everyone on the call, and only the participant can unmute himself. If you want to boot someone off the call, just click the Remove button.

RELATED: How to Mute Other People in Google Meet

People and participants managing feature in Google Meet

When you’re done with the call, just click the red End Call button.

Click End call button to end the meeting


If you don’t like Google Meet or Zoom, take a look at some of the alternatives out there.

RELATED: The Best Zoom Alternatives for Video Chatting

Khamosh Pathak Khamosh Pathak
Khamosh Pathak is a freelance technology writer who specializes in tutorials. His work has also been published on iPhoneHacks, Zapier's blog, MakeUseOf, and Guiding Tech. Khamosh has seven years of experience writing how-tos, features and technology guides on the internet.
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