Without any major announcement Google has released its app Duo. The app competes against Facebook Messenger or Microsoft’s Skype as well as against WhatsApp, Apple has also the service FaceTime, but runs it only on its own devices. From Google itself, there was already the Hangouts service, but Duo is supposed to be easier to use and to offer better quality.
The user interface of Duo is incredibly simple. You start Duo and see a preview of your selfie cam. Shift the white surface up and you can see the contacts that have you ever called. The video call button takes you to the contact list, where you can see your contacts with their phone number. At the top, Duo-users, including those who can invite you. During a video chat you can switch to the main camera or mute the microphone.
Google promises a particularly good image quality at Duo chats. And indeed, the quality of the transmission is well. The great revolution remains out though. With weak Internet connection, the image is pixelated or the video stream stops completely. The pity is that Google Duo does not indicate how good the connection is. That leaves it to guessing on which side of the line the data bottleneck is.
Of course, your phone should also have a good selfie cam – otherwise the best technology helps nothing at all.
Whether duo will have long-term success or not remains open. Thanks to the simple user interface, the odds are not bad at first sight. In the near future a pure audio chat is planned to be integrated. Text messages however are not planned.
This begs a question: Why has Google developed Duo and did not integrate its functionality into Hangouts? Why place a messenger, when with Google Allo there is still another messenger coming in the future? For the answer, we have to rely on a little speculation, but there are some good reasons why Google’s approach makes sense.
Although Hangouts has many features it is not overly comfortable to use. A realignment of messaging tools is perhaps the best way to make room for more comfortable concepts. The minimalist approach of Duo could therefore be an interesting experiment, because Google can then explore whether users are ready for a ‘video chat app. And if not? Then Google Duo integrates in Allo. Hangouts could associate as a communication tool more with Google’s Office offers and be the professional or enterprise Messenger. Allo and Duo would then be intended for private users.
Google Duo is even more comfortable than Apple’s FaceTime and certainly was Apple’s video chat the template for Duo. But in order to get past Apple’s FaceTime Google Duo would have to have multi-device capabilities – and this is missing.
Google duo has less functions which Duo handles quite good. With the simple interface many users will get used to it quickly. That you require an additional account for Duo is seems somewhat absurd – but works still well.
The great strength of Duo is also the greatest weakness: You can not send text messages as well or talk to several people at once. You cannot use Duo even on multiple smartphones, tablets or PCs. Overall, Google’s Duo offers too little to bring competitors like Skype or WhatsApp into trouble.