The Gmail app takes calls now, too, because Google wants it to do everything

The new Gmail design, with Google Spaces.
Image: Google

Google is announcing even more Workspace features today, part of an increased cadence of changes to the company’s office and communications software suite over the past year or so. Today’s announcement is a bit of a milestone, however. Although there is still the smattering of small and coming-soon updates, the bigger change is that Gmail is getting a redesign that reveals its true nature in Google’s eyes: the central hub for every Google communication app.

To begin, Google is adding the ability to “ring” another Google user with Google Meet — but inside the Gmail mobile app, not inside the Meet app. When the feature rolls out and turns on, your Gmail app will be able to be called just like any other VOIP app (in addition to being able to join Google Meet meetings). Google says the standalone Meet app will get the same ability to place calls, not just create group meetings, at some point in the future.

That Gmail was the first place Google thought to put its calling feature reveals how important Gmail has become to the larger changes happening within Google Workspace. Google has not been shy about leveraging Gmail’s popularity to drive adoption of its other services.

Now, Gmail is essentially Google’s equivalent to Microsoft’s Outlook. It’s a central hub for multiple services. Outlook is Microsoft’s hub for email, calendar, and contacts; Gmail is Google’s hub for email, one-on-one chats, group chats, videoconferencing, and now calls. The email part of Gmail is just one tab in a group of four, next to Chat, Spaces, and Meet.

“Spaces” is Google’s rebranding of “Rooms,” a Slack-alike product that offers group chats. With the rename, Google’s making it easier to find Spaces within a company by making them discoverable to search (as an option) and also finally adding full support for threaded messages. As with other group chat apps, threads will appear in an extra column on the right-hand side. (For those keeping count, that means a Spaces user could have up to five columns of different information on their screen at once.)

Google says users will be able to hide the tabs they don’t use, as before, and that the redesign is rolling out to enterprise users first, in the coming weeks. After that, it will start to appear in Gmail for regular consumers.

As for the smaller updates, Google Calendar will now let you RSVP to a meeting invite with an indication of your location. Google will finally launch the so-called “Companion mode” feature this November. It’s the system that has you log into a meeting on your laptop alongside the main room’s AV system, muted by default so there’s not an embarrassing audio feedback loop.

Image: Google

Finally, Google is expanding the “Series One” line of Google Meet-compatible hardware. Unlike “Made by Google” hardware like the Pixel, Series One devices are made by other companies to look like they fit in with Google’s design aesthetic and work primarily with Google’s software.

To me, the more interesting device is the Series One Desk 27. It’s a touchscreen display designed primarily to serve as a Google Meet videoconferencing station, but it also has a simple USB-C port and can serve as an external monitor for a laptop. When you plug in, you can use its soundbar and 5-megapixel camera with whatever video conference app you like, as well. Google says it has an Edge TPU (a custom, Google processor) for listening to Hey Google commands, but otherwise it uses a standard Intel chip for its main functions.

It’s definitely a device meant more for corporate spaces than consumer’s homes and has a price to match: $1,999.

Image: Google

There’s also the Series One Panel 65, a TV that’s also able to take stylus input and work a little like Google’s own Jamboard. Google says both will run on Chrome OS and are “all-in-one meeting devices,” but beyond that, we don’t have a ton of specs. The devices are made by Avocor, which makes a bunch of other custom meeting devices. It will launch in 2022. Pricing is not available yet.

Google is partnering with Cisco to ensure that hardware designed for Google Meet will be able to dial into Webex meetings and that hardware designed for Webex will be able to dial into Google Meet. As for Zoom, there’s “nothing to announce.”

There’s been more work put into Google Workspace in the past year than seems to have gone into it in the several years before that, the vast majority of it focused on communication. That’s great news for companies and consumers who use all of Workspace’s various apps. But for those of us who just want Gmail to keep being just an email app, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to keep it that way.

Correction, 5:25PM ET September 8th: The Gmail redesign is rolling out to enterprise customers in the coming weeks, not today as the article originally stated. We regret the error.


This is making me nostalgic for the bygone days of more minimal third party email clients like Sparrow, I just want an app to read email without a new feature being added every few weeks. I guess it’s hard to keep an app going long term when you depend on your competitors’ servers for actually sending the email.

If you have a Mac, look up Mimestream, it’s awesome.

Mimestream is really very good, I like it better than most other interfaces for Gmail.

using it rn. It’s everything I ever wanted from a desktop gmail client. i.e. just gimme those 4 categories of social, promotions, updates and forums

Just started trying out Mimestream based on this thread, and I’m liking it so far, though I do wish that at least ONE lightweight Gmail client would let me view my emails in a way that’s not compact without also cluttering it up with previews of the contents. When I was on Chromium browsers, I was using an extension that let me inject custom CSS into any page I visited, and used that to set custom spacing on Gmail, but it was a little wonky and it doesn’t work on Safari or Firefox. But for that one aesthetic objection, Mimestream is close to great.

If you want something like that, Thunderbird is great on PC, and Nine is excellent on Android.

Not an app, but for Gmail in the browser, is great!

It’s not really "bygone days" when you can do all of this right now if you cared enough to look it up.

Check out Tempo (mac only) its gorgeous.

If you have a Mac or iOS or iPadOS device, try Mail. And I continually like it for its minimalism and lack of random sorting features and computers scanning my mail. Of course, everyone already knows this. I’m just saying I really appreciate it.

I don’t see this as a bad thing! Sure, the Gmail website and app are getting a little cluttered with all these new features, but it’s still fully functional as it has been for years. These new features are convenient yet optional, and yes they’re a little bit "shoved down our throats" but you’re not locked in at all.

Compared to Outlook, Gmail still has a loooong way to go tbh.

As a gmail user (ducks) that screen shot is a bit overwhelming.

I’m always curious about those types of apps, but I can never bring myself to try switching since I can’t get my head around how to use them with my work email. (Having two different email apps for my work and personal accounts seems like too much context switching, even though I don’t use unified inboxes.)

…. But , can it create Labels (folders) in the Gmail app?


No thanks, then … LoL …. ᴊᴇsᴜs.

What are you talking about? You can absolutely create labels in the Gmail app…

While this is true, it is only recently true. For the longest time you could not do this. Actually, Google’s own help site is not even updated to reflect it yet – it still says to use a browser.

Wow, weird that you commented a couple minutes before my comment, also referring to Google’s support page.

How recent was this change??
Because the whole label-creating issue is one HUGE reason i don’t use Gmail like i used to…

Maybe a year, probably less depending on if you use Android/iOS ..

Because even Google’s own support page says you can’t make Labels in their Gmail App.
Though you seemed to be very much convinced to think otherwise, so I’m actually super curious to know what steps you have that one should take to make Labels in the Gmail app, per your direction….

Open the Gmail app in Android/iOS > Hamburger menu > Create label

Just Do It.

Literally just updated Gmail and i still didn’t see anywhere to do that at all, using your steps mentioned and everything ( my version of Gmail is 2021.08.08.394156522 )

Don’t know if there’s something else missing, but I’ve done all i could do and it still won’t let me make a label in the Goddamn Gmail App!

No one has made the inevitable joke about this being another place for communication for Google’s portfolio – now when you ‘call’ someone using a Google tool you might be using Duo, Google’s phone dialer (traditional calls), Hangouts, Meet ,etc …
Joking aside, it’s nice to see Gmail getting extended with new features, but the UI is feeling very dated these days and it’s settings sections are already seemingly more complicated than Outlooks (at least at first glance) – it would be nice if Google focused on some usability/discovery features that made it easier to do the new things!

Kind of reminds me of WUPHF!

Outlook is the worst email i have ever seen, hope my company switch to Gmail

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