Google has launched an easy-to-use video calling app called Duo for both Android and iOS platforms. Described by Google as a “simple 1-to-1 video calling” app, Duo is certainly a direct competitor to Apple’s popular FaceTime video calling app.
Simple as Described
Do not expect out-of-this-world tricks from Duo. It’s essentially a basic video calling app, as Google itself has said. The idea is to make Duo as easy as possible to use even for smartphone users with bare-minimum technical skills. The app will be available in 78 different languages.
The app requires separate downloading, which some users may find cumbersome. After that, a user can connect with any other Android user on the contact list. Unlike with other Google products, users don’t need separate Duo accounts. The downside is that users won’t be able to connect with other Google apps like Hangouts, Chat, Spaces, or Allo, the upcoming texting app, at the same time.
Google says that Duo is designed to be “fast and reliable,” even on slow connections. The app can change call quality according to changing network strengths. The app can keep a call going on low res even when bandwidth is limited, rather than freeze the frame or disconnect the call. Duo can also automatically switch between cellular and Wi-Fi to prevent calls from dropping. This is definitely a handy feature for video conferencing on the go.
The user interface, like the app, is simple. It’s basically comprised of just the two parties calling. There’s an interesting feature on Duo called Knock Knock. When a user receives a call, he or she can use Knock Knock to watch a live video of the caller before deciding to answer.
For users who are concerned about security when video calling, Google only says that the app is encrypted end-to-end. No other security features were disclosed.
These are basically the only features available on Duo. Users cannot make video calls and send text chat messages within the call like with Skype. Google clearly wanted Duo to be separate from Allo, the SMS app that will be unveiled soon. If Google aimed for extreme levels of simplicity with Duo, then it has certainly achieved that.
How Duo Compares with Other Video Calling Apps
Duo leaves a lot to be desired in comparison with Skype, Facebook Messenger and, of course, FaceTime. Users cannot conduct group calls, add effects, or chat with texts while video calling on Duo. In this regard, the app is quite dull and bland.
Google is hoping that the app’s radical simplicity will attract users. Duo, for a change, is an app that can’t do everything. When the app is launched on a phone, users instantly face a camera screen with the option to call. There are tabs on the app with two lists of users: the frequent contacts and others who don’t already have Duo (and thus can be invited to use Duo).
It’s not clear how Duo will manage to compete with video calling apps like FaceTime and Skype. However, Duo certainly has an advantage in its WebRTC video framework that can handle calls regardless of the network strength. This ability might help Duo corner video callers in the developing world where cellular networks can be weak. Duo’s biggest competitor in the developing world would be WhatsApp, which doesn’t offer video calling ability.
All in all, Duo indicates that Google is finally serious about mobile video technology.