Google has unveiled plans to extend the period during which customers could make unlimited calls using Google Meet until March 31, 2021, ending speculation that it would end the free period on September 30.
While that might be good news for those who use Meet casually to keep in touch with friends and family, one feature seems to have disappeared: the ability to record and archive Meet calls to Google Drive, which Google had offered for free as part of its original offer.
Unlimited Google Meet calls will still be available to anyone with a Gmail account, regardless of whether they belong to a G Suite plan.
“As we look ahead to a holiday season with less travel and important milestones like family reunions, PTA meetings and weddings hosted over video, we want to continue helping those who rely on Meet to stay in touch over the coming months,” Google said in a blog post.
Google had extended the premium features of Google Meet to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers until September 30, a decision Google made in March in response to the pandemic. Consumers, too, could sign up with a Gmail account.
As the deadline neared, there was concern that “unlimited” calls (lasting up to 24 hours) would return to becoming a paid feature for the paid Enterprise tier for Education, and for G Suite customers. G Suite for Education is free, but Google charges US$4/student/month for G Suite Enterprise for Education, and the same amount for faculty and staff. G Suite’s basic plans start at $6 per user per month.
In our overview of what digital classrooms might look like for the 2020 school year, one teacher we interviewed—Bill Vacca, director of Instructional Technology at Mohonasen Central School District in Rotterdam, NY—was not concerned about the end of Meet’s unlimited free calls, possibly because his classes fell below the 60-minute limit that Google normally set for free calls, pre-pandemic.
Vacca was more concerned about losing the ability to record Meet meetings and archive them for students to review. “What they have done is going to bite schools in the butt in the end,” he said at the time.
Google’s blog post doesn’t indicate that the ability to record meetings has been extended, for free. Google representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. We will update this story if we find out more.