In today’s world, communication is key. Some services tend to keep it as simple as possible, while others introduce bells and whistles as a part of the communication process, making it more fun and lively, but at times clunky as well. With Duo, Google is aiming for the former. Announced at Google I/O 2016, the video calling app is finally ready to launch. Duo has been designed to be simple, with a singular focus: simplifying video calls for smartphones across two popular platforms, Android and iOS. The app stays true to its description, allowing you to call up friends just by tapping their picture.
Duo is available both on for Apple and Android, gaining a significant advantage over its competitor app, Facetime, which is available exclusively to Apple users. The registration process is as simple as ever, with the user authenticating themselves with just their mobile number. Google Duo is not tied to any account and does not maintain a friends list. The app rather uses the contact list to find out others using the service. Much like WhatsApp, you cannot use it on anything other than a mobile device with a cellular connection. The app is also not able to place conference calls, focusing its efforts on improving one-to-one conversations.
Duo is based on WebRTC and has been developed by the same team. The video calling app can swiftly detect your connection speed and adjust the quality of the call accordingly, and even continues the call without interruption during a switch from Wi-Fi to a cellular data connection. The major strength of the app as seen by Nick Fox, Google’s vice president of the communication division is the app’s singular focus on support only for mobile phones, allowing them to improve the overall experience. But this approach might also be the app’s biggest caveat.
A much touted and novel feature of the Duo app is the “Knock Knock” feature. Although available only to Android, this feature allows the display to show a live preview of the caller during the incoming call, seamlessly starting the call as it is accepted. It eliminates the jarring start to video calls often experienced by other video calling services. To alleviate privacy concerns, the feature only works for people already in your contact list. The feature can also be turned off entirely if need be. Duo also has the option to block callers.
At the time of writing, the app is not available for download, but it should be rolling out shortly. Duo is competing directly with the likes of Skype, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, and Facetime. It is not yet clear whether the app will be bundled with Google App suite for Android. but according to Fox, Duo is aimed at the consumer market while Hangouts will be shifting its focus to the enterprise sector. No announcement about Allo, the AI-enhanced text messaging app has been made yet.
UPDATE: The app is now available in the Google Play Store, though do keep in mind it might not be available to everyone this very moment, it should be soon though.