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Home / Technology / Google Duo arrives to take on FaceTime
Google Duo arrives to take on FaceTime

Google Duo arrives to take on FaceTime

Google Duo, a new video discuss app that works exclusively on phones, is removing expelled today. I’ve been regulating it for about a week and we can tell we that it’s fast, easy to use, and abandoned of difficult bells and whistles. You daub on a face of a chairman we wish to call, they answer, and we have a one-on-one video discuss going. Nobody who uses this app can contend that Google didn’t grasp a thought of formulating a video discuss app that’s relentlessly, categorically designed usually for phones.

That bid is so single-minded we can’t confirm if it’s shy or bold.

First, a bit about how Duo works. It’s accessible on both Android phones and iPhones. When we pointer up, a app checks your phone series from your SIM and afterwards sends we a acknowledgment text. That’s a whole setup routine — there are no accounts to emanate nor crony lists to maintain. It’s tied directly to your contacts list and your phone number.

That’s good for simplicity, though bad if we wish to use Duo on anything other than your phone. It’s also incompetent to make discussion calls, put Hangouts-style humorous bandit hats on your conduct during a call, or offer usually about any other imagination underline we competence pattern from a video discussion app.

Duo’s radical morality is by design, says clamp boss of Google’s communications division, Nick Fox. “By being laser-focused on mobile,” he says, “it enables us to usually make certain that we were doing a great, smashing pursuit on that case. … For us, we suspicion ‘amazing on mobile, zero on desktop’ was a improved approach.”

There is one underline in Duo that feels honestly new: it’s called “Knock Knock.” When we accept a call on Android (it doesn’t work on a iPhone), your whole shade starts display a live video from your tourist before we even answer. It lets we see who’s job — and lets a tourist make humorous faces to try to tempt we to answer. Google’s promo video for Duo emphasizes it heavily:

In my testing, Knock Knock worked really good — and it has a combined advantage of origination a call start immediately. The video call is already regulating a nanosecond we appropriate adult to answer it. “Instead of a call starting with disappointment and confusion, Fox says, “you start with a grin given we know it already works.” we don’t know about a smile, though we do know that Duo calls started though all a “Hello, are we there?” that we typically knowledge with many other video and audio calls.

For those disturbed about people hijacking their shade with a video feed while they’re during cooking or a meeting, a few records to palliate your mind. First, Knock Knock usually works with people we already have saved in your contacts — so pointless people won’t uncover up. Second, we can retard a tourist if we like — though take note that given Duo doesn’t have a possess eccentric friends list, restraint a tourist on Duo blocks them everywhere. Last, we can spin a underline off wholly if we don’t like it.


Google also has finished a lot of work on a behind finish to make things feel immediate. It’s formed on WebRTC, with some combined technical underpinnings to make a call automatically ratchet a peculiarity adult or down depending on your tie quality. It’s even means to say a call when we switch from Wi-Fi to cellular. After a really brief hiccup, a call usually keeps on going.

I mostly tested Duo on a Nexus 5X (running a latest Android Nougat Beta), where call peculiarity was mostly good — improved on Wi-Fi, though never so bad that it forsaken completely. On a iPhone 6S, call peculiarity was equally good. However, given Google doesn’t have a same ability to confederate on iOS as it does on Android, there are a few hassles: no Knock Knock, and we have to clear a phone before we answer a call.

Duo is a second of a dual apps Google announced during a developer discussion this past May. The other is a AI-enhanced content messaging app Allo, for that Google hasn’t nonetheless announced a recover date. That’s peculiar enough, though maybe not as confusing as Google’s altogether devise with communication apps: instead of regulating a one solution, Hangouts, Google has opted to recover dual opposite (but somewhat related) messaging apps: one for video and one for text.

Neither app is designed to replace Google’s other video and messaging app, Hangouts. Instead, Hangouts will continue to exist with a some-more firmly focused mission: portion craving users, where Fox says we can pattern “it will increasingly be some-more integrated with Google Apps suite.” It will still be accessible for consumers, of course, though those users won’t be a concentration of destiny product development.

And Fox is also not generally endangered that Google is charity a multiplicity of communication apps. He sees Google’s products as separate broadly into 3 bands: Allo and Duo for consumers; Hangouts for a enterprise; and services that are some-more conduit focused — like SMS, RCS, and even a Phone app. Fox believes that consumers simply aren’t confused by a multiplicity of messaging apps — either they’re done by Google or not — “People use a apps that their friends are using,” he says. And he’s vehement to see Duo (and, later, Allo) contest with all of them head-to-head.

How Duo will indeed contest was (and is) one of my biggest questions. Why use Duo when Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, FaceTime, Hangouts, and any series of other options exist? Is Google going to precedence a large energy of a Android implement bottom somehow? Will Duo be partial of a customary apartment of Google Play apps preinstalled on a immeasurable infancy of Android phones (outside of China)? “We haven’t done decisions on that yet,” says Fox. “We wish to get it out there, see how it does, and afterwards we see placement as a subsequent step rather than a initial step.”

When we pronounced adult tip that we couldn’t confirm either Google’s devise with Duo was confidant or timid, this is what we was referring to. It’s not going to be a involuntary default for all Android phones, replacing phone calls in a approach that iMessage replaces SMS. Google isn’t prepared to go there usually yet, that feels timid.

But it’s also bold. In this impossibly swarming marketplace, Google is forcing Duo to contest on a possess merits. You can entice somebody to use it by promulgation them a content from inside a app, though differently a devise seems to usually be to see how it is perceived in a marketplace. we asked some various of “how are we going to get users for this thing” no fewer than 4 times in my hour with Fox, and each time a answer boiled down to this: “We’re focused on building good apps that people adore and placement will follow that.”

I have no thought if that devise will work: infrequently arrogance is usually naiveté. But we can’t assistance though honour a clarity of purpose behind a origination of Duo. It’s aggressively, obsessively focused on origination a best probable mobile knowledge for video chat, during a responsibility of all else. He pronounced no to desktop, no to discussion calling, no even to permitting a same comment to work on mixed devices. For a Duo team, removing “mobile first” right meant perfectionist it be “mobile only.”

Duo does one-on-one video discuss really well, that is what Google set out to make it do. The doubt now is either or not that’s enough.

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