Category Archives: Apps

Google Allo – Google baked into your conversations


I have to say, I have been chomping at the bit since May about this one.

A little backstory:

Google Hangouts was released to be the ‘ultimate communications app’ and…. it has been struggling. It hasn’t kept up with the other chat services new functions and abilities and with SO MANY (really awesome) features, many users were confused on how it was used and were not utilizing everything. (Did you know you could start a video call right within a hangout conversation? Most didn’t.)

Google has decided to focus more on their business customers when it comes to Hangouts and, while it has not been officially announced, will eventually only provide the app for their Google Apps for Work subscribers. They realized that having one app do everything was too confusing for the average user and thus announced Duo and Allo this past May. (Read here for my Duo review.)

Well, Due came out last month (as the response to video chat apps), and, finally, Allo is here.

Then came Allo

Allo was released this morning (9/21) on Android and iOS and I could easily go into EVERYTHING that it can do, but this article would be incredibly long and the point of this blog is to give you the brief, easy to understand explanation.

Allo was released as a messaging service as a direct response to apps like Facebook Messenger, iMessage, WhatApp, and all the others like these out there, but it has one thing going for it that those others just don’t: Google.

Why is Allo Different?

When you are having a conversation with someone and start talking about getting a bite to eat Google will automatically add a list of nearby restaurants to the conversation. Want to see a movie? Google will pop up the latest movies and their nearby showtimes. What about trivia? Ask Google a question by putting @google before your text so that it knows you are asking the search assistant and it will do it’s darndest to get you an answer. And, everyone in the chat can see the results, so you no longer have to copy and paste information across services into a chat.

You can also resize your texts (instead of using caps to shout), you can add stickers, emoji’s of course are still there, and, predictive text. Over time it learns what you like to say in response to things. Like if you are more of a ‘haha’ person vs a ‘lol’ person. It also has an incognito mode which encrypts your conversations by default and once deleted, always deleted. (The Google Assistant is also not a part of those conversations, for obvious reasons.)

All this is demonstrated incredibly well on Google’s page, so, if this has you interested, I would go check out the incredibly well-designed app on this equally well-designed website to see it in action and get the download links for Android and iOS (yep, once again, cross-platform!)

And when you do download it, give me a quick, ‘Allo!’

Like my first post, ask me questions! Either in the comments or on Facebook. I will add them to this post.

Edit: Questions and Clarifications:

  • Allo currently only works on one device at a time. If you log in on a different device your initial device will deactivate.
  • Like iMessage, you will have to deregister your phone number before you register a new one.
  • Allo does not send standard SMS when someone else does not have Allo but instead sends them a notification from Google that you sent them a message and to install the app to reply.
  • Most reviews are pretty mixed, and for good reason, Google has some more work to do before this will become the SMS replacement they want it to be:
    • It is one more messaging app in a sea of messaging apps, and it comes late to the game.
    • The features that separate this app from the pack are not quite impressive enough (yet) to draw people away from other apps.
    • It will not send standard SMS to non-Allo users.
    • It cannot be used on tablets or web-browsers (yet) while almost all the other messaging apps have this already (including Google’s own Hangouts).

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.