Last month Google introduced two new apps for smart messaging and video calling at the I/O 2016 conference.
Going by the names of Allo and Duo respectively, the apps have left most people wondering why Google has given us two new apps, considering Hangouts and Google Chat already exist.
As WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and other players are eclipsing Google Hangouts in popularity, Allo and Duo are supposed to be alternative offerings for the messaging world from Google.
Allo is a smart messaging mobile app which relies on a user’s phone contacts. According to Google Allo ‘makes your conversations easier and more expressive’.
A hybrid of Snapchat and Facebook Messenger, Allo enables users to draw on images and send them to their recipient.
Allo’s sales pitch leads with artificial intelligence. By typing "@google," you can access a wide range of services, from basic web queries to making restaurant reservations.
The most impressive (or perhaps creepy) feature of Allo is built in Smart Reply which allows users to reply without typing or saying a single word.
Overtime, Smart Reply learns your typing style and will show you suggestions based off both your style and the context of the conversation or image. For example, it will learn whether you’re more of a “haha” vs. “lol” kind of person. According to Google, the more you use Allo the more personalised the suggestions will become. Smart Reply also works with photos, providing intelligent suggestions related to the content of the photo. As the image below illustrates, if your friend sends you a picture of a child holding a daisy sends, for example, you may see Smart Reply suggestions like “aww so cute” or “love the daisy.”
Allo also includes the Google assistant, allowing you to find information and get things done. You can chat one-on-one with the assistant, or call on Google in a group chat with friends. The assistant in Allo lets you bring things like Search, Maps, YouTube and Translate to all your conversations, so that you and your friends can use Google together.
Allo offers two privacy settings: normal and incognito.
Although messages are encrypted in both modes, the normal setting allows artificial intelligence run by Google to read messages, analyse them and provide suggestions. Only the incognito mode uses end-to-end encryption, which ensures that the messages can only be read by the people on either end of the conversation.
While end-to-end encryption is extremely secure for users, there has been some controversy following the app’s announcement as end-to-end encryption can can make it difficult for law enforcement to recover messages during investigations - even if they have a warrant. In Washington DC, the FBI director, James Comey, has lobbied the administration to put restrictions on such technology.
Google’s answer to Facetime, Duo is a simple one-to-one video calling app which works on both Android and iOS regardless of internet connection speed.
Like Allo, Duo is based on the user’s phone number, allowing users to contact anyone in their contact list.
One of the biggest differences between Duo and Facetime is Duo’s Knock Knock feature which shows the recipient a live preview of the caller before you pick up
Duo calls are in HD and are optimized to work well even on weak networks. If bandwidth is limited Duo adjusts quality so you’re still able to connect. Like Allo, all calls on Duo are end-to-end encrypted.
While no official release date has been announced Google states that both apps will be available this winter.