Google is introducing the ability to access instant messages directly from Gmail to more iOS and Android users, after it was introduced as a feature for Google Workspace users last July (through 9to5Google). It’s still a test feature so it may take some work to access it, and it may not be available to you depending on your account settings (my colleagues and I were able to enable it for personal accounts, but not our work accounts ). However, if you can make it work, you will be rewarded with a new tab at the bottom of the Gmail app, which allows you to access your chat messages.
To enable the feature on iOS or Android, open the side menu and scroll down to Settings. If you have multiple accounts, select the one you want and search for “Chat (early access)” under General. If you flip the switch, it will turn on (after you restart the app).
If you don’t see the Chat option, you may need to enable it in the desktop version of Gmail first by going to https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#settings/chatand then select Google Chat from the Chat menu. After you restart the Gmail app on your phone, the switch should appear.
Chat is Google’s replacement for Hangouts, from which it has slowly taken users away. Chat is also available as a separate app, but if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like having a ton of messaging apps on your phone, you might just have it as a tab in Gmail (especially if you live in email all day).