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When it comes to video conferencing software, Google Meet (formerly Hangouts) and Zoom are among the most popular. In fact, the two have amassed such followings that what were once merely program names have now evolved to verb status.
If you're on the fence about which video conferencing platform to use for your remote work, small business, or friendly catch-ups, we've weighed the benefits and drawbacks of both below. Deciding on one won't be as easy as leaving your mic on mute, but with this comparison of pricing, features, and services, you'll be ready to Zoom or Google Meet in no time.
Note: While both services offer enterprise solutions, we'll mostly be focusing on the common basic plans, and mention paid plans when there are significant differences.
At a glance
Free or $7.99 per month for business
Free or $19.99 per month for business
Up to 100 participants on basic plan (Up to 500 for enterprise)
Up to 100 participants on basic plan (Up to 1,000 with Large Meetings add-on)
1 hour for group meetings, one-on-one meetings up to 24 hours
40 minutes for group meetings, one-on-one meetings are timeless
End-to-end and TLS encryption, waiting rooms, meeting passwords
Windows, Mac, iOS/iPad OS, Android
Windows, Mac, iOS/iPad OS, Android
Price and availability
Both Google Meet and Zoom offer free basic plans for personal use, with the usual caveats like participant and time limits. If you're choosing for a larger team or business, then paid enterprise options are available as well.
With Zoom, the basic plan can be upgraded to Pro or Business for $14.99 and $19.99 per month, respectively. You can purchase up to 10 licenses per account, or apply for more by contacting Zoom's sales channel.
Comparatively, Google Meet will save you a couple more dollars per month if you opt for the Workspace plan (the equivalent of Zoom's Pro) charging $7.99. That monthly rate, however, is set to increase to $9.99 starting April 2022. It's also worth mentioning that along with Google's free basic plan, educational institutions and teachers may qualify for Google Workspace for Educational Fundamentals. The package synchronizes Meet with Google Classroom and other suite programs.
Google Meet and Zoom are available to download on Windows, Mac, iOS, iPad OS, and Android. For either platform, only one member of the group -- the host -- is required to own the program in order to start a meeting. Participants can use dedicated invitation links to join in via app or browser.
As mentioned before, going free comes at a cost. Fortunately, most of the drawbacks are tolerable and, for some, may not affect day-to-day use at all.
Both Google Meet and Zoom allow free users to host meetings with up to 100 participants. With group meetings (three or more people), Google Meet limits conferences to one hour, while Zoom caps them to just 40 minutes.
Google clearly has the advantage here, and the extra 20 minutes may be enough to tie up any housekeeping and/or follow-up questions during meetings. Barring some inconvenience, you can, of course, re-host the same Meet or Zoom session to reset the time limit.
Through paid plans, the participant cap scales up to 500 on Google Meet and 1,000 on Zoom, and meetings can be hosted for up to 300 hours.
Video conference features
Once you're on a Meet or Zoom call, you can access a slate of essential audio and video-calling features like webcam backgrounds, screen sharing and recording, meeting controls, and more. Both programs also support cross-platform compatibility, meaning participants can join from their computer, phone, or tablet. Where the two differ are in the finer settings and features.
Comparing free plans alone, Zoom edges out Google Meet by offering more customization with audio and video output, including built-in appearance features, artificial lighting (to make your face and room appear less dark), and built-in whiteboards and waiting rooms for hands-on collaboration. Google offers similar functions but only for paid users. Zoom also gives you the ability to virtually raise a hand, private message participants through chat, and react to speakers with emojis -- for disturbance-free interactions.
Still, Google Meet has a couple of nifty, built-in features that you may value more. Live captioning, for one, comes pre-installed and utilizes Google's AI expertise to accurately transcribe and closed caption audio in real time. Zoom has a similar feature, but it requires a third-party plugin. It also helps that Meet thrives on Google's cloud services, so recorded meetings can be directly saved to your Google account. Under the basic plan, you're eligible for 15GB of free cloud storage. Lastly, speakers can present Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, directly in a Meets room.
What's just as important as how you look on camera, is who's able to see you. At the start of the pandemic when video conferencing services saw rapid spikes in traffic, security and privacy concerns naturally arose. Fortunately, that was nearly two years ago, and both Google Meet and Zoom have established greater lines of defense since then.
Today, both services offer end-to-end call encryption and user-controlled features to keep meetings and sensitive information private. Waiting rooms, for example, ensure that hosts can moderate, permit, and deny access to meetings. The feature is available on Google Meet and Zoom, and prevents uninvited guests from joining or "Zoombombing". When hosting a meeting on either platform, you can also enforce the use of a uniquely-generated password (up to 10 digits) for an added layer of protection.
On the security front, we've seen Zoom and Google take drastic (but necessary) measures to ensure safer and more private video calls. You can use either service to converse, interact, and share information safely.
Choosing between the two video conferencing programs boils down to what features you value more and how many people will be using it. From our evaluation, Google Meet is better for personal use, and transitioning to it is kept simple thanks to the seamless integration with other Workspace apps and services. For business and professional users, we'd side with Zoom, which touts a more robust and comprehensive feature set and can house up to 1,000 participants per meeting. You can't go wrong with the free versions of either service.
If you're still on the fence, here are some worthy alternatives for your consideration:
Microsoft Teams: Another popular choice, Teams is free to use, can host calls up to 60 minutes, and plays well with Microsoft's 365 apps. The platform is also well-accredited for its security and privacy features.
Discord: While created with gamers in mind, Discord has become a reliable destination for all users to connect virtually. The service is free to use, has no time limits on video calls, and supports Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux.