Google Chats is officially replacing Hangouts in Gmail. Gmail’s Chat integration first launched for Google Workspace and enterprise Google accounts last year, but is now available for general users on Android and in web browsers. (Sorry, iOS is not yet supported.)
At this point, Gmail’s Chats features are technically in early access and need to be enabled manually. Here’s how to do so.
- Download the latest Gmail app update from Google Play.
- Go to Settings > [Account name] > General.
- Select “Chat (Early Access),” the tap “Try it” to enable.
- The Gmail app will close and relaunch. You’ll be given a short tutorial and the option to turn on notifications in Gmail if you have the Chats app installed.
Desktop via web:
- Go to mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#settings/chat
- Under the the Chat header, pick “Google Chat (Early Access).”
While it’s easy to roll your eyes at yet another Google messaging app showing up (and yet another Google app getting axed in the process), Google Chat will be able to do more than Hangouts, especially from within Gmail. For example, you can send a message through Chat directly to your contact’s Gmail inbox, or scan URL links with Google’s Safe Browsing settings before you click on them. Chat also integrates with Google’s other apps like Docs, Meet, and Calendar.
Pin Google Chats in your Gmail for easy access to your favorite people
Another handy feature is conversation pinning, which is available on desktop and in the Gmail mobile apps and works for both regular Chat direct message threads and Chat’s “Rooms” group conversations. It should be an option for all users once Chat is available for them in Gmail. Here’s how to do it:
- Scroll through Gmail’s “Chat” or “Rooms” side menu to find the conversation you want to pin.
- Select the three-dot “More” menu icon, then select “Pin.” You can also select “Unpin” to remove pinned conversations.
- Pinned Chat conversations or Rooms groups display a thumbtack icon and remain at the top of Gmail’s side menu. They also show a red dot when there’s an unread message.
This tiny hack makes important conversations easier to track—at least once your Gmail app finally swaps out Hangouts for Google Chat instead.