One killer messenger app. That’s all you need. Not the four that Google seems to think you do. At Google I/O, the Internet giant’s annual conference for developers, Google unwrapped two new, very distinct messenger apps that will work on iOS and Androidphones “this summer.” There’s Allo, for messages and emojis, and Duo for videoconferencing. This is already on top of Google Messenger and Hangouts, each of which handles both texts and video calls.
What gives, Google? Do we really need all these messaging apps?
Google says we do. Allo and Duo are both apps that Google built from scratch, not based on any existing code for Hangouts or Messenger. And both new communication apps draw deeply on machine learning as part of the artificial intelligence future thatCEO Sundar Pichai champions as the way forward.Allo’s goal is to learn your rhythms and responses and offer suggestions in the form of quick replies. So if someone asks, “How’re you doing?” the app might suggest you type in “Awesome!” alongside an emoji of dog doodoo. You choose the suggestion you want, or respond with something else, and behind the scenes Allo records and remembers your answer, maybe for next time.
Duo’s flashiest video-calling trick is Knock-Knock, which essentially rings your buddy with a preview of what you look like and what you’re doing this very minute. That means there can be no delays between broadcasting your goings-on and the moment the person on the other end receives the knock and picks up the call (or not).
Focused engineering may be Google’s reason for keeping the two separate, but there are other considerations as well. These apps work on phones and tether to your phone number, whereas Hangouts is purposely cross-platform, so it works on desktops as nimbly as it does on mobile.
Google also says that different consumers use apps for different purposes, so you might turn to Hangouts for a certain group of friends and Facebook Messenger for another. Meanwhile, you might Skype your in-laws on the weekend but call up Duo’s Knock-Knock video to chat with your sweetheart.