Just when you thought messenger apps can’t get any better than WhatsApp/Facebook Messenger, Google announces a really smart messenger app and a really cool video calling app, Allo and Duo (respectively). The apps were demo’d at Google’s annual developer conference, Google I/O.
Here is why you should be excited:
Allo is a smart messaging app which learns over time and bring the richness of Google into your messaging. It’s based on your phone number so you can communicate with anyone in your phonebook. Some features include:
- Whisper/Shout. This allows you to express yourself a little more. This feature allows you to change the size of your text. See below:
- You can use Ink to write something on your photos before you send them, adding more emotion to them.
- Allo can also help you type less by offering quick reply suggestions to texts you receive. For example, if someone sent you a message, “Wanna go see a movie tonight?” Allo would suggest “Yes!” and “No, I’m busy.” as replies, then you would select the one which applies to you. It uses machine learning to suggest replies, anticipating on what you might want to say next. It will suggest responses based on what you would say. The more you use Allo, the better the suggestions become and the more unique to you, they will be. Smart replies contain stickers and emojis too. But wait! There is more! Allow offers smart replies on images that people send to you! It does so using Google’s Cloud Vision, understanding the content and context of the image. During the demo at Google I/O 2016, it was able to tell the breed of a dog in a picture!
- During I/O 2016, Google also announced Google Assistant, which is a new virtual assistant tool by Google (an upgrade to Google Now) designed to help you “get things done in your world”. It’s a “conversational assistant”. Meaning, it responds to your queries in a smart, ongoing, two-way dialog. It’s kinda like talking to another person. Google Assistant is also built into Allo, bringing the technology into your conversations with friends/family. For example, if you and a friend are having a chat and one of you says, “Let’s go out for some Korean food”, Google Assistant can be used to bring up some suggestions of nearby restaurants which everyone can see. Furthermore, Google has partnered with OpenTable.com to allow users to even make reservations in Allo! However, OpenTable.com is unavailable in Zambia (Africa) so we won’t be having that awesomeness.
- Allo doesn’t have end-to-end encryption on by default. If you want to secure using end-to-end, you’ll have to use it’s Incognito feature (kinda like Telegram with its secret chats). I, personally, didn’t like this about Allo, despite its awesomeness. I’ve grown very paranoid about security and privacy. Even Edward Snowden had something to say about this…
Google's decision to disable end-to-end encryption by default in its new #Allo chat app is dangerous, and makes it unsafe. Avoid it for now.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) May 19, 2016
Duo is a simple one-to-one video calling app. It’s a companion to Allo. Google claims it’s fast even on slow networks. It seamless switches between cellular data and WiFi. It’s end-to-end encrypted. It has one really cool feature that makes it really awesome, called Knock Knock. Knock Knock shows you a live video stream of the caller, before you even pick up the call. Not only can you see who’s calling but what they are doing. And once you pick up, Duo puts you right in the call, seamlessly transitioning from the live preview to the live call. It’s looks like an awesome experience! Technologies behind Duo include:
- WebRTC, an open source platform which powers most mobile video communication. The team behind this technology are the ones who behind Duo.
- QUIC, an encryption protocol
Here is an short video which demonstrates the video calling experience on Duo:
The apps are yet available for download but you can pre-register (Android) and they will come to your phone automatically when released, some time after 21st June (US Summer). They will be available on both Android and iOS.
I plan on posting more Google I/O announcements over the next couple of days so look out for more.