Google Duo – the Facetime-like app that works across platforms

What is Facetime?

Facetime is an Apple iOS exclusive app that allows you to quickly start a video chat with anyone else that has an iOS device. iPhone, iPad, etc.

The obvious problem is that not all of us own iOS devices, and there have been many other apps (Skype and Google Hangouts are the most well known competitors) that have tried to compete with Facetime since it’s launch in 2013.

The first problem that Google wanted to tackle was that these alternative apps (including their own Hangouts app) were too confusing and complicated because they were chalk full of so many (useful!) functions that the average just didn’t use. If you didn’t have an on-call techie in your pocket you easily got lost.

The second problem they found was that most users don’t want to setup a new service or account. While Google’s Hangouts was connected to your Gmail, it still was convoluted enough that it turned people away.

Thus came Duo. Built by Google to do just one thing VERY well: video chat on your phone across Android and iOS.

  • Duo is connected to your phone number. So no account needed for setup.
  • Duo is available in both Google Play and the iOS App Store
  • Duo connects with your phone’s contacts and shows you who already has Duo and lets you invite those that haven’t.
  • Duo is end-to-end encrypted. Meaning that the Government (or anyone else) can’t spy on your video chats.
  • Duo is not a data hog. Google spend a lot of time on the back end to give you great video even on networks that are not so great.

Duo also has one unique feature that Google calls “Knock, Knock.” Knock, Knock allows someone receiving the video call to see the callers video before they answer. So when your phone starts ringing with the call you can look down and see not only who is calling, but what they are wanting to show you. (Don’t worry, only people in your contacts can call you, you won’t receive video calls from strangers)

It launched on August 16th, 2016, so it is still fairly new to the scene, but it has been downloaded over 5 million times, which, if you don’t know, is a lot for a new app. Is it the Facetime killer? Time will tell, but I believe it could be since it allows friends and families that don’t all own iOS devices to still connect in a simple, straightforward way.

Check out Google’s video showing off Duo in action:

Do you have any additional questions about Duo?

Reader questions answered:

1: Since Duo is connected to your phone number there is no other sign up needed. It will send you a verification code to verify your number and that’s it!

2: Both parties will need the app. Unlike FaceTime which comes pre-installed on iOS. There is a rumor that Duo will become a pre-installed app for Android down the road along with Allo (another app I will breakdown when it releases here soon) but it is unsubstantiated.

Update: August 14,  2017

Days away from a year and many updates later I am still impressed with this app.

It has since added the ability to make audio-only calls so you can call your loved-ones over wifi even when you have no cell signal (read: vacation and/or overseas). It has had a few overhauls on the back end as well that make it faster and less-data-hogging. I have to say that I am still very impressed with this video chat app compared to most of the rest out there these days.

Whether or not it is something I use… well, that is a different issue. Video calls are like phone calls for me. I rarely make or take phone calls, so this very impressive video call app gathers almost the same amount of dust my dialer app gathers. There just isn’t a place in my life yet for a video call app, and adoption amongst my friends and family remains low for similar reasons.


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