A year of Google Allo and Duo: what's the status?

A year of Google Allo and Duo: what's the status?

It’s already been a year since Google announced Allo and Duo. These apps arrived on Android as an alternative to services like Hangouts, and to a certain extent as competitors to Apple's iMessage and Facetime. Did the Mountain View company deliver on its design? Lets have a look back that the previous year and see how both apps have faired.

Google Allo

Stickers, Shout and smart responses

Google invested a lot into its stickers for Allo. They set up partnerships with local developers and businesses to create personalized images. There were improvements to GIF support and the Big G brought back a few old-school things from the time of MSN Messenger, like “Shout,” which is a nicer version of the famous “nudge,” where you don't shake the whole channel or play a noise.

allo figuras google stickers
Shout, stickers and sticker store on Allo / © NextPit

Along with these updates, the company also streamlined their smart response resource, which anticipates somewhat generic expressions that the user could use to formulate questions or answers, like “How sweet” or “hahaha.”

A lack of bots

It’s obvious that Google Allo needs to catch up on some different aspects, seeing as how throughout the last two months it’s received quite a few updates, like new customization tools (a brush for images and a cut tool similar to WhatsApp). Still, Allo is lagging behind Telegram with respect to bots, which is the system of the future for more evolved messengers. Facebook Messenger also has them.

google allo bot desenho
The bot @lucky and design tools on Allo / © NextPit

Assistant is the main bot on Allo, and it’s responsible for its entire ecosystem. However, it’s not quite enough to expand the possibilities of the app, and also, in some cases, it doesn’t convince many users. The second bot that Allo got was @lucky. It sent animated GIFs according to what the user says. For example, if the user wrote “I’m nervous,” the result would be a funny image of someone making a nervous face. It’s an entertaining bot, but it shouldn’t be the only one.

Google Duo

The arrival of voice calls

Duo's main competition is Apple's Facetime app, which is also dedicated to video calling. Now, Duo is catching up to Facetime in terms of features, since it can make voice calls as well. This will help out users who want to save a bit of data by going voice-only.

AndroidPIT google duo test 7976
Google Duo’s interface / © NextPit

Picture in Picture

Besides voice and video calls, there weren’t many updates to Duo in the last few months. Although recently, the app has gotten a Picture in Picture feature (PiP or PIP), which only works with Android O. Using this feature, the user can display a floating miniature of their in-progress video call on top of the rest of their open apps. Restricted to just a few beta testers, Google still hasn’t announced when this feature will be available for other OS versions.

google duo pick picture
Floating video call on Duo / © NextPit

What’s to come?

A more integrated Allo and Duo

New versions of Google Allo (11.0+) suggest that it could be possible to make a video call from Allo or send texts with Duo. Within a messaging chat, you’ll be able to click on the video call button to jump to that contact in Duo. The call won’t happen in Allo itself - the user will be redirected to Duo.

Allo web

According to Google Vice President of Communications Products Nick Fox, within two months, the web version for Google Allo should be released to all users. This will add a new dimension to the messenger, and make it even more practical and useful.

Google Desktop Allo
Google Allo web interface / © Droid Life

Finally, I’d like to leave you with my opinion regarding the usability of both apps, but mainly Allo. You could say that I’m #teamallo since I’ve been using the app since December, even though it’s not my main messenger. In fact, the app has evolved quite a bit, but it’s still overshadowed by others on Android.

Google needs to take away the option of Hangouts from the everyday user to try to make Allo more visible. Even then, it still might not succeed. The simple fact that it’s a native app won't make it successful, considering that this type of app depends on a large user base to make it work. However, as interesting as it is that Google Assistant is inside Allo, I don’t think it’ll be enough to guarantee its well-deserved place in the sun. Assistant would probably have more success as an independent virtual assistant, rather than integrated with Allo.

Something else that catches my attention is Google’s publicity. Most of the time it's limited to the existence of stickers, as if users are only looking for this type of “communication.” There weren't any announcements about Allo or Duo at Google I/O 2017, although they did appear as accessories for other new features. This was a bit strange considering that last year they were two of the conference's main announcements.

What do you think about Allo and Duo? Have you or do you use either app?


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  • Nihal Cassim Jun 18, 2017 Link to comment

    Google is an extreme company. either they get it extremely right or extremely wrong! their core success goes back to simple. Web search, sites, gmail, android os, ok google, google apps etc are simple. Their social networking apps are not simple G+, G talk etc. Even photos tries to organize your life as per its own faulty AI. Allo and Duo will fail. no one is using them, just like G+, Gtalk, Hangouts etc etc etc.

  • steve May 22, 2017 Link to comment

    Still playing the game of phones.

  • Brian May 22, 2017 Link to comment

    Sms, think I'm only the 3 millionth person to state what would seem to be the obvious.

  • Alvin Williamson May 21, 2017 Link to comment

    Android users have been complaining about not having a solid sms app for years. I find it deplorable that Google is not providing it's users what they want. I'm sick of "beta testing" your messaging apps.

  • John Hufnagel May 21, 2017 Link to comment

    Just give ALLO full SMS to anyone instead of Allo users only.

  • ljhaye May 21, 2017 Link to comment

    Google still doesn't get social and messaging apps are social hence the endless confusion with their variety of messaging apps. Also Google mobile apps aren't even the majority favourites on Android. Samsung Apps and Facebook apps are the default apps for many basic mobile phone services and functions and that has to be a problem. Google is too slow in maintaining feature parity versus other platforms so the OEM's and Facebook step increate that parity. Also Google's Android is a smartphone platform not an ecosystem akin what you get with iOS. This statement has validity when you see Samsung hardware running Oculus or tizen competing against Google's hardware and software initiatives.

  • Francesco V. May 21, 2017 Link to comment

    "Until and only if Google comes out with a stock dialer app. That includes all phone functions, chat, SMS and video calling. Without the need for add-on's or other childish work around's. Google is just wasting their time" 100% agree with HE Aha

    • Shawn Wells May 21, 2017 Link to comment

      Agree 1000% It's Apple's killer app. Combine Duo, Allo, SMS and then let's talk. We already have messenger and WhatsApp with way more users until it's a convergent app it's useless.

  • HE Aha May 20, 2017 Link to comment

    Both of these half assed, half baked apps were DOA.
    The stickers you tween reviewers love to talk about are childish and won't do anything to slow both of these apps eventual and infamous, Google deprication.

    Neither will the much heralded Google Assistant. Especially, how it was originally rolled out. Users of Allo (all 6 of them)
    Had to type @Google to get this over hyped, renamed feature to work. Very intuitive Google...

    The fact that an intuitive "G" button was already in the iOS Only and Google made Gboard app. And that, that app was many months away from Android release, Was sheer stupidity on what ever over paid Google millionaire approved it.
    But then again, eventually giving Gboard to Android users, only drove another nail in allos coffin.

    Who needs Allo, when you have the same functionality in ANY other chat app, while using Gboard!
    If Google Assistant was the must have feature of Allo. Everyone now has it in Gboard.
    Once again, pure genius Google. Surely somebody got shit canned fit this epic fail?

    Until and only if Google comes out with a stock dialer app. That includes; all phone functions, chat, SMS and video calling etc. Without the need for add-on's or other childish work around's. Google is just wasting their time

    Hopefully both Allo and Duo will have a long, drawn out, money draining death. At which point, hopefully Google will stop trying to reinvent the wheel every few months and go with what works. AKA, an improved Hangouts renamed something like Google communications

    Everybody copies Android, yet Google, for this most basic feature won't copy them. Why? Dancing to your own drummer is great, if the end result is a better product. But in a large percentage of apps, that simply isn't the case.

    Hangouts could have been one of these, if they only made it the default dialer and stopped chasing the children
    Let the tweens, that think stickers are the only needed function have their flavor of the month kids app, they aren't paying the bills, and when they eventually begin to, the first thing they run from, is the kiddy apps that were the last year's "social" must haves communication apps
    That list is an endless one. ICQ, All, Myspace etc...

    iMessage / FaceTime are simple, work and are the standard, so just copy them, make it default and be done with the endless half baked apps they keep releasing.

    If you want people to use your communications apps, ditch the childish crap, make then all inclusive and standard.

    With that said, what is goggles issue with messaging?
    Do they think they can monetize it?
    Are they going to sell peoples call data, phone numbers etc?

    Oh wait, that already began with the horrible spam / block caller feature.

    The day I opted in for that feature is the day non stop spam calls began and have since, only gotten worse. Coincidence?
    I think not!

    • Brandon Harrington May 21, 2017 Link to comment

      Well said Alvin, Google continues to make a muck of things when it comes to communication and messaging. But it gets far worse for those of us who use Google Voice faithfully. With each new flavor of the month, Allo Duo and now Android Message App nipping at the heels of Google Voice and Hangouts integration which worked decently but not seamlessly. With each new flavor Google dismantles​ Google Voice and hangouts integration leaving everything disjointed to say the least. Sadly Google stubbornly refuses to offer any soft transition, to transfer voicemail, call history, text messages, chats to the new "com” app of the month. Or fix the crazy redundancy as when somebody calls or get a text message I basically get at least two copies of everything it's maddening. But I deal with it because I love Google Voice.

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