Last year, Google announced that the future of Gmail will see instant messaging and group rooms joining the existing Meet video call integration. This is already available to Enterprise Workspace users, and Google now allows personal Gmail accounts to have this “integrated workspace.”
This merger comes as Google wants to make Gmail your new “home for work.” The goal is to let users do everything on one page without having to switch between other tabs. Since you probably want Gmail open on your desktop, Google integrates everything.
Gmail now has four main parts. “Mail”
This manifests itself as a bottom line with four tabs on Android, while the Gmail sidebar on the web is divided into four sections. They appear by default, but can be quickly hidden by clicking on the chevron. Pressing a “Chat” opens the conversation at the bottom right of the screen. The rooms open full screen and replace the standard list of messages. As shown below, a feature that comes “in the future” is the ability to have picture-in-picture meeting conversations in Gmail.
The functionality of these two new tabs is identical to the standalone Google Chat app, and users can delete the dedicated client. Next to the search box, which can now look up both “email and chat”, online, there is a status indicator (Automatic, Do Not Disturb, Set as Gone), with these controls in the Gmail navigation tray on your mobile. Other changes include updated ‘outline’ icon design throughout the web interface.
Many free personal Google accounts today can activate new Gmail with Chat on both Android and web. This experience is not yet available for the iOS application. Business accounts need permission from their administrators. Make sure you have the latest version of Gmail installed from the Play Store to get started, with Google warning that “you may experience errors and other issues.”
To access, you must enable Chat “Early Access” on each of your Android devices and online, as well as Google Accounts. Activation on one does not bring the new experience to all Gmail instances.
How to turn on new Gmail with Chat, Rooms
- Open Settings (bottom of the hub tray)
- Tap personal Gmail account
- Select “Chat (early access)” under General
- Click “Try it”
- Gmail app restarts with tutorial and asks to turn off notifications from standalone Google Chat app (if installed)
- Go to mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#settings/chat
- Select “Google Chat (Early Access)” instead of “Classic Hangouts”
- Confirm the popup box
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