In Depth

Google Duo: The rival to Apple's FaceTime

Internet giant's new video-calling app is said to be the simplest yet and comes with added human touches

Google has launched a new video-calling app to take on the likes of FaceTime, Skype and Facebook Messenger.

Duo was previewed by the internet giant at its I/O 2016 developer conference in May and a full roll-out of the software has now been revealed on the official Google blog.              

While video-calling is hardly revolutionary – and Alphr says the concept is underwhelming in practice - Google has two unique selling points it says mark out Duo.

It's simple

Duo is being billed as the easiest video-calling app to date, with The Guardian saying it's "super simple".

As with WhatsApp, there are no accounts. Duo uses your phonebook to list contacts, so there's no fiddling around with email addresses and passwords. Google has also worked to optimise performance when mobile data reception is poor and the service features end-to-end encryption.

The Verge says it's "fast, easy to use, and devoid of complicated bells and whistles". Given its designed for smartphones only, adds the site, it's a relentlessly easy way to have video chats over your mobile.

It's more personal

Duo has something the other apps don't - "Knock Knock", the video call equivalent of having a peephole.

Users will see live video of whoever is calling before they pick up and will able to see where the caller is, what they're doing and why they might want to chat. The feature "could make people more comfortable with spontaneous video calls", says the Daily Telegraph.

It will also make Duo faster as the video feed will be up and running by the time a call is answered.

It's part of a wider package

In addition to Duo, Google is to launch a text-based messenger called Allo, which was also revealed at this year's I/O conference.

The system, which also works using the contacts book, has machine learning and automatic replies as its killer feature. Google Assistant will, over time, begin to anticipate how a user replies to certain messages and serve up quick reply options. It can also recognise photographs and again provides fast, instant replies based on what it sees.

Allo won't be out until later this year, while Duo will be released across iOS and Android over the next few days.

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