Torn Between Zoom & Google Hangouts? Here Are The 6 Biggest Differences

by Syeda Khaula Saad
MesquitaFMS/E+/Getty Images

The coronavirus outbreak has forced people to get creative when it comes to how they communicate with family, friends, and coworkers. If anything, living in the digital age amidst this pandemic has proven to be helpful. From social media apps to messaging platforms, there are plenty of options out there to help you stay connected with others, despite not being able to see them in person. But with so many choices available, it's worth looking into the differences between platforms like Google Hangouts and Zoom, so you can figure out which is best for you.

Google Hangouts was released in 2013 as a way of combining the company's previously separate softwares like Google Talk (for calls), Google+ Messenger (for chat), and the original Google+ Hangout (for video) all into one. Over time, the platform added voice calling and video calling to accommodate for all types of virtual conversation.

Zoom was released the same year, but started really climbing up app charts in 2017, according to The Business Journals. Since then, it has been gaining traction — especially so during the recent outbreak, when many people are turning to the app for their video conferencing needs (whether professional or personal), according to CNBC. In fact, Reuters reports that the app has increased its daily active user base by 67% since January.

While at the core, both platforms are useful for staying connected during these times of social distancing and self-quarantining, there are some key features that make them each distinct. Whether you want to use a video chat app for work meetings or for staying up to date on your friends' latest gossip, here are the most noticeable differences between Google Hangouts and Zoom.


The Number Of Maximum Participants

Depending on if you want to have huge company-wide meetings (or you're just super popular), the amount of people a video-conferencing app allows you to have in one meeting could be a make-or-break point for you.

Google Hangouts allows up to 150 people in a chat, but limits its video calls to only 25 people per call (with the 10 most active participants shown at the bottom of the screen). This works for those who have small group meetings or just want to chat with a few friends.

Zoom, on the other hand, allows users to have up to 100 participants in a video call. The Gallery View feature lets you see up to 49 of these participants on one screen. Plus, if you want to have an even larger meeting, you can have up to 500 people (so long as you get the Large Meeting add-on for $50 a month).



If you're just looking for a video-conferencing app to use for friends and personal use, you might want to spend as close to nothing as possible.

If you want to use Google Hangouts solely for making and receiving phone and video calls, you can do this for free. But, if you want storage to keep records of your meetings and calls, pricing starts at $6 a month for 30 GB of storage.

Zoom has different packages that are priced depending on how many features are included. The free option allows you unlimited meetings and up to 100 participants. For a pro account (meant for small teams), you pay $14.99 a month per host.


Additional Features

Not everyone uses video-conferencing apps just for video calls. Sometimes, it's nice knowing that you can do more with your apps.

If you're looking for something a little simpler, Google Hangouts is your best bet. The software does have additional features, but most of them don't require extra practice. These include Group Conferencing, Intelligent Muting, and Integration with other Google applications. For the most part, you can just get onto Google Hangouts and start using it.

Zoom might seem a little more complicated at first, but provides a great set of additional features if you want to have some fun. They include an annotation tool to take notes with, an automatic transcript-creator, and even a touch-up feature.


Screen Sharing Capabilities

Whether you're in a meeting with coworkers or talking to friends about that weird thing your cat did when no one was looking, sometimes you need visual aids. And if you're already on a video call, this is where screen-sharing capabilities come in.

Google Hangouts lets you share your screen with others in the video call, but this is limited to one person at a time.

Zoom, on the other hand, allows multiple people within meetings to share their screens at once.


Emojis & GIFs

OK, this might not be the most important feature you're looking for, but sometimes you just need a little more fun in your messages. Though this feature is mostly for those chatting with friends, you never know when you'll want to send your boss a cute "thumbs up" emoji.

Google Hangouts lets you search for and use a wide range of emojis (both animated and unanimated) and GIFs. You can throw them in chats anytime you want.

While Zoom doesn't let you use emojis, it does let you use GIFs. Plus, it allows admins to turn this ability on and off. This could come in handy during meetings that are supposed to be all-business. But even so, you can still use Zoom's whiteboard capabilities to draw on different slides and screens, so there's a way to get around it.


Time Limit

If you're looking for a video-conferencing app for work meetings, your video chat time limit may not matter as much. But if your video-app-related activities consist of staying on call with your best friends for all hours of the day, time limits might be a deal breaker.

Google Hangouts doesn't have any known limits on the length of calls you can make to others.

Zoom, however, does have a limit for those who are using its Free package. Although you can make an unlimited amount of calls, each call can only last up to 40 minutes. If you're using a pro account or anything more expensive than that, the limit moves up to a 24-hour duration.

Aside from learning about an app's features, sometimes it just takes using it and comparing it to others first-hand to discover which option is best for you. Either way, happy chatting!