Google has decided to extend free access to unlimited Meet calls through March 2021 and bringing new features along for the ride. That's based on an announcement made by the company via its The Keyword blog.
The announcement follows news that the search giant would be sticking to its previously indicated schedule. Namely, that it would close out access for unlimited calls in Google Meet on September 30. After that, it was reported, calls would be limited to just an hour. The timeline was in place as recently as yesterday.
Now, the company will be allowing users to continue chatting in Google meet for up to 24-hours. That's well short of the "unlimited" marketing but long enough that just about anybody on a free account should be able to hold any gatherings they really need to in Google Meet. The only prerequisite, of course, is that users need to have a Gmail account.
But wait! There's more than just an extension on free "unlimited" Google Meet calls
In addition to extending unlimited access to Google Meet, the search giant also revealed a wealth of new features for its video calling app. Not least of all is a new AI-powered noise cancellation feature. That's rolling out now and turned off by default. But users can turn it on by navigating over to "More" and then to "Settings." Then they'll need to tap or click on "Noise Cancellation."
That's not the only new feature though. Google indicates that users will also be able to see up to 49 of the total 100 participants in a call at the same time. That's mostly going to be advantageous on larger screens but that'll be via tiled- or auto-layout options.
The company is also enabling call casting to televisions and hands-free calling on the Nest Hub Max. So users will be able to access those new features on their best or most convenient display without issue. And background blurring in Google Meet has been added so users can help fellow participants focus on people instead of their surroundings.
Finally, for educators, users can create or open existing Jams too. That's via a newly-announced Google Jamboard and Google Meet integration, allowing better productivity and collaboration in the video calling app.
Why the change of heart?
Now, Google says that the extension and addition of new features are primarily driven by the incoming arrival of the holidays. Users, the company says, need to be able to gather for family reunions, PTA meetings, weddings, and other "important milestones."
Given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in the US, the move makes quite a lot of sense. Especially in the context of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions and continuing competition in the video calling segment of the market.