Best answer: Google Meet is one of Google's videoconferencing platforms that comes bundled as part of the company's enterprise software package known as G Suite. Google is making Meet free to use from May through September 2020, and it is a solid alternative to other popular video platforms.
What is Google Meet?
Meet is Google's version of an enterprise or corporate videoconferencing solution. It's included as part of its G Suite platform, and is meant to compete against similar premium offerings like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx, and GoToMeeting, just to name a few.
Google Meet can be used in a web browser or through an Android or iOS app on your smartphone or tablet, and can host up to 250 people simultaneously. It also has useful features like screen sharing and in-conference chatting. If your G Suite administrator has enabled the function, you can record the meeting to allow those who were not present to watch the meeting later. You can share links to meetings without worrying if those you're inviting have the right software or plug-ins. Users can dial-in on their phones for free, and it even works with other platforms like Skype for Business and offerings from the likes of Polycom and Cisco.
Google is making Meet free to use for anyone from May through Sept. 2020, so now's as good a time as any to see if it will work as a videoconferencing solution for your professional or personal use cases.
The teams at Android Central, Windows Central, iMore, and Thrifter have been working remotely for years, and we all use Google Meet for weekly planning sessions and check-ins. Having participated in calls on many similar videoconferencing platforms, I can say that Google Meet has been pretty solid in my personal experience, and is at least good enough to prevent me from considering switching to another option for work. For personal video calls, I prefer something like Google Duo. Still, if you wanted to host a larger virtual family or friend reunion, Duo and similar consumer-grade options can't match the power of Google Meet.
Google Meet vs. the competition
If you think Google Meet sounds like just one good videoconferencing product among a sea of similar offerings, well, you'd be right. It may not be the best solution for you or your company, but it does offer a pretty robust feature set by itself, which is further amplified and enhanced by the broader set of offerings in G Suite, like Drive, Docs, and Gmail.
Zoom is the current conferencing darling, so how does Meet fare against it? Well, Zoom can host larger groups (500 vs. 250), it can connect to video conferencing equipment and hardware, and it even works with Linux. Google Meet, on the other hand, doesn't charge additional fees for call-in participants and can integrate with both Gmail and Outlook. Best of all, you don't have to download or install any add-ons or plug-ins to join a Google Meet call.
Microsoft Teams is another popular collaboration platform, that positions itself somewhere between G Suite and Slack. Both Microsoft Teams and Google Meet are end-to-end encrypted, and both offer free options. However, Google Meet has arguably better real-time collaboration tools, while Microsoft Teams allows you to live stream to up to 10,000 people!
OK, you say, those professional-grade options are great, but what about more low-key options for casual users? These won't allow you to talk with your entire team, most likely, but you can still video chat with friends or family.
Google itself offers a compelling consumer-grade video calling platform called Google Duo, which works in the browser or, more commonly, via a smartphone app. Google Duo can support up to 12 callers simultaneously, and it's even integrated into the phone dialer on several Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S20 and Google Pixel. It also has fun effects and filters, and you can leave video, audio, or text messages for friends when they're not available.
Another popular option for family and friends is WhatsApp video calling. WhatsApp is already one of, if not the most popular chat apps on the planet, and chances are most of your friends and family already have it on their devices. Score one for ease-of-use! The biggest downside is that only eight people at a time can be on a call (though I personally find it challenging to carry on a conversation with that many people at once anyway!).
Should you use Google Meet?
So, should you use Google Meet for your video calls? It depends on what you want to achieve. While it's a great product, I honestly don't think it's worth messing with any enterprise-level platform if you're a small team, or if you just want to stay connected to family and friends. If your group is fewer than 8-10 people, then I think something like Google Duo, WhatsApp video, or Facebook Messenger video calling makes more sense.
However, if your company already uses G Suite for business email and collaboration tools, or if that's something your company is considering, then I recommend you give Google Meet a shot over any other video conferencing platform. It's already included in the G Suite package (so why spend more money on Zoom or GoToMeeting), and it's super simple to use and administer. You or your IT team will just have to decide if the feature set is sufficient for your company's needs.
Quick and easy way to hold video conferences
Google Meet is free to use with a Gmail account. You get more meeting tools with a G Suite subscription.
Mobile app for Meet
Hold meetings on the go
Downloading the Google Meet app lets you conduct business from anywhere on any mobile device.
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