Please, Never Call Me Through Gmail

Please, Never Call Me Through Gmail
Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP

In the fires of the covid-19 pandemic, the Age of Always Online was forged. Everybody works from home now, and so work life and home life have completely blurred together into an indiscernible slop of constant optimisation, with no clear delineation between being “at work” and “cooking dinner at home with loved ones.” It’s the reason more and more companies are rolling out Zoom-like “social audio experience” features, and also ostensibly the reason that Google has been fine-tuning the branding on G Suite by giving it a new name — Google Workspace — and a new set of communication capabilities.

As part of a series of updates to the newly-minted Google Workspace, The Verge reports, the company plans to roll out a new feature embedded within Gmail’s mobile app that will allow users to “ring” each other with Google Meet outside of the designated Google Meet app. Like any other VoIP technology, this feature will allow friends and colleagues to literally call you on Gmail, which sounds suspiciously like the realisation of a dystopian nightmare in which there is virtually no corner of the internet in which you can’t be reached by PR executives at any given moment. According to The Verge, that same feature will also soon be arriving on the standalone Meet app, which will soon give users the ability to place calls in addition to creating group meetings.

Notably, the tweak would move Gmail more firmly into the role that Outlook plays for Microsoft, which is that of a one-stop communications hub for users who want to schedule meetings and maintain their emails, calendars, and contacts all in one place. To that effect, Gmail will also be rolling out a new interface featuring four tabs, each of which will highlight each of its core functionalities: email, Chat, Spaces, and Meet.

In a smaller update, Google is also set to launch a “companion mode” feature this November, which will allow prospective meeting attendees to log into meetings automatically muted and synced to the main room’s AV system, avoiding awkward feedback and unwanted background noise.