I installed Google Duo, Google’s new standalone video calling app, the day it was released to the public, and told a few of my friends to install it as well to try it out, or what’s the point of a video calling app if there’s no one to talk to to begin with? It was announced at Google I/O 2016 along with Allo, and I have been excited for their release since then. Allo is a messaging app with Google intelligence integrated into it. Based on the demonstration, I thought both the apps would be good at what they do, better than Google Hangouts.
I installed Duo the day it was released on my two years old Android powered phone, and asked some of my contacts to install it as well. I have used it for both Android – Android and Android – iOS video calls. At the time of writing this, Duo has 10,000,000 – 50,000,000 installs, 109,355 ratings averaging at 4.4 on Google Play, and less installs (no surprises there) with similar average rating on Apple’s App Store.
Your account is tied to your phone number, which is convenient. But it lacks the features to be used with the same account from multiple devices as of now. I also think that while being optional, the ability to add more numbers or email addresses could have helped with a unified account. Such account management features, if added without complicating the UX or UI too much, will certainly be useful and convenient.
I think it’s not as flexible with the lowest bandwidth needed as Skype is, but it’s better than Skype in terms of both video and audio quality above the threshold. But I had expected better adjustments to network fluctuations. There were also some issues with connecting. Calls got cut or paused (both audio and video) a few times. With time, though, I think it will be optimised. There have been updates containing some bug fixes, and I also think that they did some server side optimisation. I have noticed some improvements after some initial calls.
There’s an interesting feature called “Knock Knock” in Duo that lets the receiver of the call see the caller before picking it up. However this can be anything but ideal in some situations. So turning it off in the settings is a good option to have. When you turn it off, you turn off both sending and receiving it. There’s also an option to block certain numbers, and the blocked person will still hear a ring when calling, but you will not actually be getting any calls.
But, there are still some missing features. Audio-only calls, the ability to switch seamlessly between the two types of calls, a detailed call log are some of the main ones. In the near future some of these features may be added and bugs will be fixed. I do hope that in future releases of Android, a mature version of Duo gets a core place.