Google’s Duo, a video-calling app for one-on-one interactions, is now live. Google had announced Duo and Allo (a new messaging app) at the annual I/O conference in 2016. Duo is a cross-platform app, which will work on Android and iOS. Users will need only their mobile number to sign into Duo.
With Duo, comparisons to FaceTime are inevitable, given the simple interface and that video-calling only feature. Duo has a ‘Knock Knock’ feature on Android where users can get a live video preview of the incoming call, even on a locked screen. On iOS, Knock doesn’t work on locked screen, but the live video preview can be seen if a user has the app open.
On the network efficiency of Duo, Google’s Product Manager says “our app is reliable across networks, and works across platforms. So if your network is not that good, it will adjust the video definition accordingly, and Duo is smart enough to adapt to these conditions.”
Google’s Duo has a simple interface and will let users just type for a contact with whom they wish to do a video-call. A user needs only their mobile number to log-in, and not the Google account as Hangouts. And Google is hoping this simple log-in process will work to its advantage, and bring in more users, especially the first time Android users from India, who wish to try out video-calling. In India, WhatsApp remains the most popular messaging app and it relies on mobile numbers to create an account, unlike Google Hangouts which needs a Gmail ID.
Other than the simple interface for Duo, Fulay also says it is not a data hog. “The default settings limit data usage on this app, and we’ve tried to optimise data consumption,” he adds.
Google says the decision to keep the messaging and video-calling apps separate was a deliberate one, so as to let a user choose an app for a dedicated purpose. Also Duo is end-to-end encrypted for all calls, unlike Allo where only messages in the incognito mode are end-to-end encrypted. Google says in Allo’s case they were bringing their machine learning to the app, which is why the end-to-end encryption was not made default mode.
On the broader messaging strategy, Fulay says Allo and Duo are geared for consumers, while Hangouts will be seen more for productivity. “For consumers, we think Allo and Duo will be more suited. The only identity needed will be mobile numbers, and we’re hoping first time smartphone users will take to them. Hangouts will be more around productivity, and Google apps,”says Google’s Product Manager.
According to Google, the idea with Duo is to start fresh, and create a simple app for making video-calls. Whether Duo helps Google get the edge in mobile video-calling will be closely watched.