Obviously, 2020 was a year when everything changed and not always for the better. It was also the year when we all coped with the help of video calling. While Zoom is probably the brand that is top of mind, Google also had a share of the video calling pie with Google Meet and the more personal Google Duo app. The two services combined hosted more than one trillion minutes of video calls all over the world. And as we continue practicing physical distancing, expect those minutes to increase even more in the next few months.

To say that Google was not prepared to have its Meet app go big this fast is probably obvious to keen observers. Zoom was the go-to app when it comes to video calls in the first few months of the pandemic. But Google eventually tried to catch up with its Meet app, first by making it free for everyone and extending unlimited video calls until March 31, 2021 and by adding a lot of new features. Although most of the features are just playing catch up to Zoom and other competitors.

Google added a Meet tab in the Gmail app even though no one was actually asking for it. Features like a 49-tile layout, noise cancellation, background blur, custom background, low light mode, etc. It also gave users live captions in five languages which is pretty useful for those watching webinars and joining pretty long meetings to help everyone follow what’s going on. Meet is also available on Chromecast and Nest Hub Max.

For the more personal and informal kind of video calls, you have Google Duo. The video calling app has been there even before the pandemic of course but Google has added a few more things to make it more fun and interesting. You can make doodles while on a call, add augmented reality effects to make it more interesting. These effects adapt to your facial expressions and move around the screen. You also get Moments to relive the photos and videos you were sharing afterwards.

Google is also emphasizing that both Meet and Duo are meant to be private and secure although we haven’t heard of any plans to add encryption. They are also ensuring that users are able to connect even if they have a low bandwidth connection.