Google has one of the best reputations when it comes to everyday tech and their Hangouts platform has become one of its staple apps.
The program is now a popular hub for video, audio, and text chat done simply, and if you’re thinking about using it for business, there’s a lot to learn.
Is Google Hangouts any good?
Google Hangouts offers a one-stop solution for audio, video, and text chat online and can be used for both personal and business needs. The cross-platform messaging service is a free, downloadable app and is a simple way to access a range of communication methods using one service.
If you’re looking for a communications base for your business, you’ve likely heard of Google Hangouts before, but need to know more.
This review dives deeper into what’s on offer, the good and the bad, and what you can expect in terms of features, quality, and pricing.
What is Google Hangouts?
Google Hangouts is a web and mobile-based app developed by Google and designed to be a messaging platform.
Within the Google Hangouts service, you can send instant text chats and start video and audio calls, and it’s designed to be a simple solution for all forms of communication.
Where once Google Hangouts was the place to conduct your business communications, the torch has now been handed to Google Meet. Meet offers a more comprehensive platform for things like web conferencing and analytics, but many businesses still rely on the simplicity of Hangouts to keep in touch with clients, customers, and work peers.
According to Google, the plans for Hangouts is that it will continue to be used for personal needs predominantly, with Google Meet becoming their flagship model for business communication.
However, that doesn’t mean you still can’t put Hangouts to work for your company and still use it as an efficient mode of communication if you want something simple.
The Best and the Worst
The true test of a software’s suitability for your company is to look at its best and worst features to see if they’ll matter in the long term.
When it comes to Google Hangouts, there are some clear benefits it offers and other downsides that could be a dealbreaker, so consider whether these will make a difference to your business:
The app and software for Google Hangouts are entirely free and there are no hidden fees or costs anywhere. If you want a free way to hold meetings online and only ever have less than 10 participants, there’s no reason to spend more just to get an upgraded system.
File sharing made easy
You can share documents, images, GIFs, audio, and other files through Google Hangout so it’s an easy way to send just about anything you need to quickly and while you’re communicating with the other party.
Google is constantly committed to upgrades and any glitches or bugs that might be occurring are fixed within hours or days. As such a large company, you benefit from all of their manpower and budget going towards improving the customer experience.
Voice calls for free
Google Hangouts allows you to voice call anyone within the US free of charge, provided you are using the Google Hangouts and Hangouts Dialer apps together. This is a great way to save costs in your business by giving you access to free calls.
Hangouts is incredibly easy to use and doesn’t require any extensive tech knowledge or previous experience to make it work. They walk you through every step and you only need a Google account to get started, without having to download bulky files that slow down your computer and steal bandwidth.
Easy to upgrade
It’s easy enough to upgrade to Meet at any time and still use a free version of the software. If you feel that Hangouts no longer meets the needs of your business, you don’t have to spend a thing to see what the next tier of support is all about.
Safe to use
All of your chats and audio and video content are safe when you use Google Hangouts. Any information you send is encrypted so your personal information is kept safe, and all communications will be kept secure on their server.
International calls costly
Although it’s possible to make free voice calls to other Google Hangouts users, you will need to pay to call international landlines and mobile phones. If your business communicates with other countries, using an app or platform that does it all for a flat rate or no cost would be better.
Better for personal use
Hangouts is no longer designed to be a business tool, and you’ll likely come across some blockages because of it. You won’t get administrative control or have the ability to customize it suits your needs, and will probably have to upgrade to get anything that’s worth using for business.
No access to third-party platforms
Unlike its predecessor, Hangouts uses a propriety protocol which means it won’t give access to most other third-party applications. You won’t be able to integrate the chats with many other platforms like you used to do, which could cause some issues.
Google appears to be attempting to phase out Hangouts and force users to switch to Meet. This means fewer upgrades on this platform and even less worth for business users in the future.
Audio and Video Quality
The quality of the video and audio you make calls with is important for a business and could be a make or break when trying to find the right platform.
As a free tool, it’s not surprising to learn that Google Hangouts doesn’t have the most premium quality when compared to the paid alternatives out there, but it’s also not the worst.
Google Hangouts boasts HD quality pictures and their video offers 720p max video resolution. The quality of the video you get will also depend on your internet connection, and Google works best with at least a 3.2Mbps download and 3.2Mbps upload connection to get the most.
When it comes to audio, the quality is amazing and on par with other web conferencing platforms, we’ve reviewed. However, this again also depends on what you bring to the table in terms of hardware.
If you’re planning on making a lot of calls, you’ll want to invest in a good microphone for your computer, as the ones built-in aren’t capable of the type of crystal clear audio that’s important on a business call.
How Easy Is It To Use?
Google designs all of its products to be easy to use and simple enough for beginners to understand, and when it comes to Google Hangouts, this is no different.
If you’re using Chrome, you can get the add-on, but for users of Internet Explorer, you may need to install a plug-in.
Once downloaded, you can start a chat using Hangouts just by signing into your account opening the app on your desktop or smartphone, or opening your Gmail account and accessing it from there. Select ‘New Conversation’ and enter the contact details to being your chat, and choose whether you want to add video or audio to the conversation as well.
Google Hangouts gives you the option to add up to 10 people to a chat, and this can be done by pressing “New Group” under “New Conversation”. Be warned though, when you add a new participant, they can see the previous message history before they joined. This could cause issues for business settings, so be mindful of what you’re writing in a group.
You’ll also get the option to view chat history and save it across multiple devices, but there’s no way to access recordings of audio or video. For these types of features, you’ll need to upgrade to Google Meet, as Hangouts is used as more of a personal-based chat platform.
Pricing and Plans
Google Hangouts is a completely free app that can be downloaded on your smartphone or similar device, as well as used on a desktop.
Within this free cost, you’ll get access to video and audio calls with up to 10 people at once, as well as text chat with up to 100 people.
If your business has greater needs than this, Google Meet is the obvious transition. It’s capable of hosting more people, can provide in-depth analytics, and gives you administrative control over the account and calls. Thankfully, there’s also a free plan available with Google Meet that lets you continue to use all of Google’s most basic features for nothing.
To upgrade from here, Google Workplace Essentials is the next step and the most popular for those looking for a complete business package. Access to this costs just $8 a month per user and comes with the rest of the Enterprise suite including collaborative apps, options for working with others on files, and video and audio meetings with up to 150 participants.
Finally, Google Enterprise is the final option and the pricing here is customizable with one of Google’s account managers. You’ll get access to unlimited meetings, 24 hours to conduct them, and a maximum of 250 participants. This is the option for larger businesses or those with larger call volumes and is priced accordingly.
Customer Support From Google
As always, Google maintains its stellar reputation for customer support with all of its products.
Using Google Hangouts likely doesn’t require as much tech support as you’d need if you upgraded to Meet, but there still may be a time when you need a hand.
To access customer support from Google, you can utilize two different methods, including troubleshooting tips from the Help Center or a massive and helpful online community.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to speak to someone directly or even an email address, as this type of support seems to be reserved for paying customers.
Hang Out With Google
A quick look at what’s on offer from Google, as well as some background on their stellar reputation, should tell you everything you need to know about Hangouts.
This is a great option for personal users or small-time businesses with basic communication needs who want easy access to video, audio, and chat, and don’t want to pay for the pleasure.
However, if you have greater needs, Google Meet offers the next level of communications and can cater to larger enterprises in terms of web conferring, analytics, and support.
Whichever way you go, you have the reliability and efficiency of the Google brand behind you and some simple free options that are risk-free to try.
Google Hangouts is just one of many ways you can modernize your business’ communication functions, and there’s a lot to learn about video conferencing and webinars if you want to get it right.
We’ve answered some FAQs about this type of technology to give you an idea of what it’s all about.
Do You Need a Google Account for Meet?
If you plan on using Google Meet for your business, you’ll need an account to host video meetings and to set up the account in the first place.
For participants only, there’s no need to have a Google account to take part if you’re doing so on a desktop, but the host of the meeting will be required to grant you access before you can join.
How Many People Can Join Google Meet?
Google Meet allows up to 100 participants in a meeting when you’re part of the free standard plan.
To allow more members, you’ll need to upgrade to one of their paid plans, which should be chosen according to how many people you plan to host and what other features you require from a video conference platform.