In Brief

Google Allo: What can the WhatsApp rival do?

New messaging service is the smartest chat app you can download - but not the most secure

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Google has launched a new messaging platform for smartphones.

Allo is the search engine giant's competitor to the likes of WhatsApp, iMessage and Facebook Messenger, available for both iOS and Android users.

It has all the regular features of other messaging clients - group chats, stickers, emojis and the ability to scribble on photographs and animate your messages – and you don't need a Google account to use it. Allo is perfectly happy using your phone number.

The app's real party pieces are its smart abilities, though.

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Allo has Google Assistant software built deep within it, presenting users with a chatbot named @Google. Together, you can chew the fat and have one-on-one conversations about restaurant recommendations, directions, the weather, news headlines and more.

You can also bring @Google into group conversations with a circle of friends to share the likes of a YouTube video or screening times at the cinema without having to leave the app and grab the link manually.

At the moment, the assistant is only preview software. It'll get wiser and more functional in future updates.

Allo was announced at Google's I/O conference earlier this year and its machine learning abilities were heavily flaunted. @Google understands the context of messages or photographs, offering up a range of quick reply options to respond with, and over time will get to know you and how you usually respond to certain messages, allowing it to make suggestions tailored for your style.

"Depending on your outlook, this will be a useful way to speed up conversations, or an unsettling glimpse into Google's ability to analyse images and mimic human reactions," Alphr says.

The Daily Telegraph, however, says @Google is the main feature and the app's rivals cannot offer anything quite as simple to use just yet.

An incognito mode will allow you to make your chats private. Toggle it and all messages will have end-to end-encryption, which could be a sticking point for some – WhatsApp automatically does this.

The mode also means messages have a snapchat style expiry date you can alter yourself. If you want, you can make a message only appear for a matter of seconds.

If you'd like to download Allo, it should appear on the UK versions of the Apple App Store and Google Play over the next few days.

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