Google Hangouts is a free messaging and video chat tool that’s super simple to use and works in most web browsers. There are plenty of video chat tools available, but Hangouts is one of the most accessible options out there.
Unlike Zoom, Hangouts doesn’t try and force you to download an unnecessary app or limit your video chat to 40 minutes. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its limitations though. Unless you fork out for a G-suite subscription, only 10 people can join in a video chat, and they all have to be fellow Google account holders.
And Google intends to phase out the original version of Hangouts in June and replace it with something called Hangouts Chat and Hangout Meet, which both come with business costs.
As it’s currently free to set up a new Google account, the original Hangouts remains a popular option for now. So here’s how to use Google Hangouts to video chat with pals or colleagues.
Related: How to use Google Meet for free
How to start a Google Hangout
There are a few ways to do this, which we’ve outlined below. But the first thing you’ll need to do is sign in or create a Google account. Unfortunately, there’s no way around this, as you need to have a Google account to start a hangout session. Your participants also need to have Google accounts to join the chat unless you have a paid-for subscription to G-suite.
From your computer browser: Go to hangouts.google.com and click ‘Video call’. This will start up a video meeting, which you can easily invite people to join. Just whack their email address in the box that pops up or copy and paste the URL link provided. The email invites are sometimes a little slow, so we recommend pinging over the URL link directly into a group chat.
On your phone: There are dedicated apps for both iOs and Android phones. Once you’ve downloaded one of these and signed in with your Google account, it’s relatively straightforward to start a video call. Just open up the app and hit the plus button in the bottom right of the screen. From here, you can add people to create a group video call or dial one person directly. If joining via their mobile, the other participants will also need to have downloaded the Hangouts app. But if they’re joining on their laptop, they just need the URL link, which is generated when the call is live.
Use the extension: You can get a dedicated extension for Hangouts if you’re so inclined. Just head here and hit the install button. When you open the extension, you’ll see some contacts on the left along with a ‘New Conversation’ button. Hit this to create a new group or one-to-one chat. Once this is done, click the video to start a call.
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How to schedule a Google Hangout
The easiest way to do this is from your browser. Sign in to your account, then open up your Google Calendar. Navigate to the day you want to schedule the meeting and then left-click on the page to create an event. Fill out all the details and switch on the ‘add conferencing’ option. This should cause a little Hangouts box to appear. Next, you can invite guests to the meeting, which will send them a direct link to the Hangout.
Can anyone join a Google Hangout session?
The short answer is no. If you’re using the free version, then you can only create a hangout with fellow Google-account holders.
If you’re using either Hangout Meet or Hangout Chat, which are the paid-for versions, then you should be able to invite external people into your video calls via the usual invitation methods.
Related: Is Zoom safe?
How to join a Google Hangout
Unlike Zoom, Hangouts aren’t really given their own unique ID but instead can be found via a simple URL link.
As such, the only way to join is if your host pings across the link, which they can either email to you or send via direct a message. You should be able to join the call by entering that URL into your browser.
If you have the app or extension, you’ll also see a notification pop-up when you’ve been invited to a Hangout call. Can’t see it? Open the app and click the lines in the top left corner to see Hangout invitations.
How to share your screen in Google Hangouts and send messages in call
If you have a presentation you’d like to share with the class/ company/ squad, then just hit the three dots in the top right corner of the screen and click on the share screen option.
Having mic problems? You can send a message by hovering over the chat box in the bottom left corner of the screen. Fair warning, this message goes out to everyone, so mind what you say.
Related: How to video call on WhatsApp
What happens in June 2020?
Google has previously stated that it will migrate all consumers from Hangouts over to Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat, which are new apps designed for G-Suite subscribers. Unfortunately, anyone scumming it on the free version will lose access to Google’s popular video chat tool.
If you don’t fancy any of the other free options, such as Zoom, you can try out Google Duo. Like Facetime, this relies on people entering their phone number and downloading an app to video call their friends. Unlike Facetime, it works on both iOs and Android.