Video calling is the next best thing to being with someone in person, but too often it can be a frustrating or complicated experience. You shouldn’t have to worry about whether your call will connect, or if your friend is using the same type of device as you are. It’s no wonder that nearly half of us never make video calls on mobile. On 15th August Google released Google Duo – a simple 1-to-1 video calling app available for Android and iOS. Duo takes the complexity out of video calling, so that you can be together in the moment wherever you are.
Duo is simple from start to finish. To get started, all you need is your phone number and you’ll be able to reach people in your phone’s contacts list. No separate account is required, so you can sign up in just a few steps. From there, you can instantly begin a video call with a single tap. We all know how it feels when a call fails to connect or when video gets choppy. We’ve built Duo to be fast and reliable, so that video calls connect quickly and work well even on slower networks. 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.
We designed Duo to feel warm and inviting, focused on just you and the person you’re calling. To make calls feel more like an invitation rather than an interruption, we created a feature in Duo called Knock Knock which lets you see live video of your caller before you answer, giving you a sense of what they’re up to and why they want to chat. Knock Knock makes video calling more spontaneous and welcoming, helping you connect with the person before you even pick up.
Duo not only has to differentiate itself from all the other messaging apps out there, but it also has to compete with Google’s own offerings. In addition to Knock Knock, it’s worth pointing out a few other features that make Duo stand out. All Duo calls are end-to-end encrypted by default. Because the calls are set up via Google’s servers and rely on peer-to-peer technology, encryption is a must to ensure none of the intermediate networks can tap into your call. All of this makes Duo great, at least on paper. And in our testing, it’s a very snappy video calling app. But it’s still very early days, and while it has many advantages over Hangouts, or even Skype, it’s also missing a ton of features. For example, we asked if there are plans to support group calls or build a desktop app. Nope.
There isn’t even a way to add contacts within the actual app, let alone important contacts from other apps. You have to do everything manually in Android or iOS. The team is, of course, open to feedback and will add functionality depending on what users want. But, at least for now, Duo isn’t going to completely replace your existing video calling app. For one-to-one calls though, it’s a worthy contender. This is it for now, stay tuned for further updates.