Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) wants a piece of that (messenger) pie! For years, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) FaceTime and subsequently, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) messenger have dominated the messenger and video calling front. But now, things are heating up with the entry of Google’s Duo.
In a blog post, Google said video calling is the “next best thing to being with someone in person” but using other messengers can be cumbersome because of the complex, interface. The Android OS maker made video calling and insta-messaging a breeze by stripping down Duo’s interface and taking out the complexity out of video calling.
Duo is video chat app made simple. The app, which works on both iOS and Android, works with just a single tap. Of course, you’ll have to submit your phone number before activating Duo but set up takes only a few minutes.
According to Google’s blog post, Duo is “simple from start to finish,” fast, reliable, and secured. With Duo, you get the most basic video chat app. Its main feature is “Knock Knock,” which allows users to see live video of the caller before answering. Google calls this feature, “more like an invitation rather than an interruption” and “spontaneous and welcoming.” Apart from one-on-one calls and Knock Knock, Duo offers file transfers, text messaging and group calling capabilities.
Google struggled to enter the messaging market for years. Apple’s FaceTime remains as one of the most widely used messaging app in the industry while Facebook’s Messenger and SnapChat are steadily growing thanks to the social media element thrown in the mix, attracting younger users in the process.
“It’s almost bare-bones, from a feature point of view,” explained Nick Fox, VP of Google’s communications division, who developed the app. “If there’s anything that’s the North Star, it’s really simplicity.”
But don’t let Duo’s incredibly simple design fool you, Google has been working hard to attract more users and with that comes four messaging products rolling out soon.
As explained by Fox, Google considers its Android text messaging product as a carrier service. Hangout started out as a Facebook messenger competitor but it has slowly progressed into a “productivity and enterprise” service.
When asked why Google didn’t merge its Android-based text messaging product with Hangout Fox said, “We thought about that. We thought about that long and hard. Apps tend to do best when they’re super focused. But it’s harder for an app to do well if it tries to do everything, and does none of those things really well,” he said. “The idea is focus — do one thing very well. How it evolves over time, you know, we’ll see.”
Unlike FaceTime, Duo can do video calls on smartphones as well as take calls via wireless connection. Its features are comparable to that of SnapChat without the social media aspect.
Although it remains unclear if Apple users would jump ship with Duo’s cross-platform functionality, the new app is likely to win over Android users, which accounts for 80% of the worldwide smartphone market.