Google Chat is going free in 2021 to compete with Slack and Teams

Google Chat
Google Chat (Image credit: Google)

What you need to know

  • Google Chat is going free from 2021, the company announced today.
  • That will also mark the transition from Google Hangouts Classic over to the new app.
  • Fi and Voice users will no longer be able to use Hangouts.

After Google's Meet success, Google is making Chat free as well, pushing it forward as a replacement of the OG Google Hangouts app — or Hangouts Classic. Google Chat, as of now, is exclusive to Google Workspace (G Suite) subscribers, but will in the future become open to everyone.

The company says that it'll include all of the old Classic Hangouts old features, alongside all the new features that Google's brought to Chat like emoji reactions, send to inbox, suggested replies, and real-time phishing protection. While we've always known that Classic Hangouts was always going to be replaced by Google Chat, this is the first time Google is sharing concrete details about it.

Matthew Leske, Group Product Manager, explained on Thursday:

Starting in the first half of 2021, everyone can begin upgrading from Hangouts to Chat. To ensure a smooth transition, we will help automatically migrate your Hangouts conversations, along with contacts and saved history. We'll share more specific guidance on what steps you can take when we begin the transition process.

More interestingly, making Chat free pushes Google's revamped Gmail as a stronger Slack and Teams competitor. While you could always use Meet for free for video-calls, free messaging wasn't something Google offered. With Chat now going free, it can more easily compete with those apps — and with Gmail being the email app of choice for many — Chat's going to have a lot of eyeballs on it by default.

Google notes that timing may slip, but this is what it currently intends.

Of course, if you did use Hangouts with Google Fi or Google Voice, the new app will no longer work with that. Google recommends users make use of the Google Messages and Google Voice apps respectively. Hangouts will also no longer be able to use its "call phone" feature due to legislation in the U.S. and Europe, so use all your credits before next year.

Michael Allison