Google Duo’s much anticipated rollout made it’s way to Uganda, and Africa at 7 PM yesterday, 18th August 2016. Announced back in March at the Google I/O event, Duo is perhaps the less exciting of the app dual compared to Allo. The video-only app is too bare bones to the extent that we believe it was by design. Basically, the app can be operated by 3 taps on your screen.
Google isn’t trying to win you over with fancy features, opting for a clean, simple functional app to make video calls. The launch of Duo now predates the rumored inclusion of WhatsApp’s Video call feature. And directly locks horns with the heavy Skype app which has always had video calls. We are not sure of Google’s rationale, considering they already have the functional Hangouts app with both chat and video capability already baked in.
Duo marks the umpteenth time Google attempts at carving a slice of chat market for itself. Set against a backdrop of an abysmal run with Google Plus which failed to gain traction as Facebook did, Google has not stopped there. Google now has 5 chat apps: Hangouts, Messenger, Spaces, Allo and Duo. Apart from spaces which is some new species altogether, all of Googles’ apps can be bundled into one app and everyone goes home happy.
But enough of that. Duo in still in its infancy that we will forgive the absence certain obvious features such as audio-only and group calls. Also lacking is a desktop client, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. None of current apps started out with all these things. Duo requires you verify your number so that it can populate your contact list. With that done, you are good to go. You can always block whoever you don’t want to talk with.
Duo’s Knock Knock feature was first showcased at the Google I/O event. With Knock Knock, the person you are calling sees you even before they pick the call. This only works if they have you in their contacts. When you toggle Knock Knock off, you won’t see callers and they won’t see you either when you call them. What’s attractive about Duo is the simplicity Google has in mind. The settings are too few to warrant a bit of tweaking. Google Duo is end-to-end encrypted too which is a welcome feature any day. Interest though, we only have Google’s word for it. We didn’t encounter anywhere in the app it said so.
Duo call quality
Our first-ever video call was a mixed bag of sentiments. The video call was almost instantaneous. Duo has the option to choose either the front or the back camera. The video feed was rather good, given the circumstances. The video got paused when the connection deteriorated but soon came back on. The audio was crisp apart from some unexplained screeching sound accompanying it. The receiver had a TV on but even then, TV has never interfered with our other video calls like on Skype, Hangouts and Viber. Other calls though were much better, so we will chalk that first time to a bug or something.
While it’s too early to tell, Duo might against all odds manage to gather a following. What it offers isn’t unique in any sense of the word, only made simple so even your grandma can operate it. And perhaps that’s its appeal. The conclusion we have reached is that Duo is not too shabby.