Google has launched Duo, its own video calling app, which the company hopes will rival existing video calling apps in terms of simplicity. Duo, which is a smartphone-exclusive application for Android and iOS, was announced by Google back in May during the 2016 edition of its yearly developer conference.
The new app is not just another addition to the long line of Google’s existing services that are capable of conducting video calling, but one that is intent on simplifying the process. “Video calling is the next best thing to being with someone in person. We have designed the interface to be simple, easy and welcoming. In places like India, it has been designed to adapt to the network connectivity conditions. We hope to make the experience of video calling more personal, inviting easy and smooth,” said Amit Fulay, a product manager at Google.
Duo is a no-frills app which seems closest to Apple’s FaceTime that works on Android as well as Apple devices. However, as of now there are no options for group calling or video effects within the app. But officials at Google explain that this is in line with the company’s three-fold approach to the app’s making: simplicity, speed and reliability, and finally what the company calls “the human element”.
“We wanted to enable the human on the other end of the call to really be the experience,” says Nick Fox, Vice President of Product Management at Google. Indeed Duo’s simplicity can be a bit underwhelming. However, the video calling quality is fantastic.
As Amit Fulay puts it, “Users are reluctant to video call because they don’t know if the other person is on the right network, the right device or it’s a good time to call. We’ve tried to remove all that friction and make it feel like an invitation, not an interruption when someone calls you.” Duo is also one of the few apps from Google that does not require a user to have a Google account to use it. It instead asks them to register and find users via their phone number rather than Gmail address, much in the same way that Whatsapp works. “The chances of you having your close friends and family’s phone number is much higher than having a specific account, so using the phone number makes it easier,” said Fulay.
Despite its simplicity, there is one standout feature that the Duo comes with, called the Knock-Knock, which lets the recipient of a call see the caller before they accept and turn on their own camera. This will help the recipient of the call to understand the caller’s state of mind before they accept the call. Duo also seamlessly switches between Wi-Fi and cellular data automatically without dropping the call. While it certainly sounds like a promising option for people who prefer functionality over frills, how the app holds out in public favour will remain to be seen.