Google’s Duo Is A Long Shot in Video Chat

Google has just released it’s answer to Apple’s Facetime: Google Duo. This represents yet another communication app in Google’s crowded product offering, but if it works well, Duo may have some hope of sticking around. Whereas Facetime is limited to iOS users, Duo is able to connect users on both iOS and Android–to one-another, solving an issue that has not effectively been solved to date.

The App, which was released in the US Google Play and App Stores yesterday, is exactly what you would expect from a modern video chat app; clean and simple, but not much more. Users will be able to call one-another using nothing more than a phone number, whereas Facetime users are required to have registered Apple ID. Google is claiming a smoother experience, regardless of network conditions: “Call quality adjusts to changing network conditions to keep you connected — when bandwidth is limited, Duo will gracefully reduce the resolution to keep the call going smoothly.” said Google in yesterday’s release, “For video calls on the go, Duo will switch between Wi-Fi and cellular data automatically without dropping your call. You can start your call at home, and continue seamlessly even when you head out the door.”

The app is very simple – and perhaps too simple when looking at the recent influx of add-ons from chat leaders: Duo has no silly add-ons or effects. No face-swapping or puppy-faces. Duo wants to let people talk with as little interference as possible.

Duo’s only unique feature is called ‘Knock Knock’ which allows the person receiving the call a preview of the caller before answering the call “giving you a sense of what they’re up to and why they want to chat,” reads the release, “Knock Knock makes video calling more spontaneous and welcoming, helping you connect with the person before you even pick up.” Though interesting, the feature falls a little flat as a differentiator.

Duo will be competing directly with chat dominators Facetime (Apple), Facebook’s Messenger and Google’s own Hangouts.