Hangouts was supposed to be Google’s unified messaging solution, but things didn’t go as planned: Hangouts was buggy, lacked features and many people hated it. After releasing a separate app for SMS (Messenger), Google will soon launch 2 other apps: Allo for group chat and Duo for video calling.
Both Allo and Duo use your phone number, much like WhatsApp, so you can chat or talk with anyone from your phonebook. Allo includes a special version of the Smart Reply feature from Google Inbox and it suggests replies for both text messages and photos. Smart Reply learns over time and adapts to your style, suggesting replies you are likely to send.
There’s also a Google Assistant you can add to a conversation to answer quick questions, show search results and even perform actions like reserving a table at a restaurant. “The Google assistant in Allo understands your world, so you can ask for things like your agenda for the day, details of your flight and hotel, or photos from your last trip. And since it understands natural language patterns, you can just chat like yourself and it’ll understand what you’re saying,” informs Google.
Allo lets you share photos, add text to photos, add emojis and stickers. There’s also a Whisper Shout feature that lets you resize the text before sending it.
Allo has an incognito mode for private conversations. The incognito mode features end-to-end encryption and discreet notifications. Much like in Chrome, you’ll need to manually start an incognito conversation and some features aren’t available in incognito mode.
Duo is a simplified one-to-one video calling app that uses your phone number, works well on slow Internet connections (it uses WebRTC) and has a Knock Knock feature that shows a live preview of the caller before you answer. Hopefully, users will be able to block those who abuse this feature.
“Duo calls are in crisp HD video (up to 720p) and audio. We’ve optimized Duo to work well even on spotty networks, so if bandwidth is limited it gracefully adjusts quality so you’re still able to connect. We also seamlessly transition calls between cellular and Wi-Fi, so you don’t need to worry about what network you’re on. Finally, we built Duo with privacy and security in mind and all calls on Duo are end-to-end encrypted,” explains Google.
Allo and Duo will launch this summer and will be available for Android and iOS. For now, Hangouts will continue to exist, since Allo and Duo lack many of the features from Hangouts.
Google doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to messaging services, so it’s hard to tell whether the new apps will be successful. It looks like Allo and Duo will be simple, fast and more focused.