Video calling has the potential to improve the way we communicate on our mobiles, but no one has perfected the formula yet. FaceTime is limited to iOS, Skype requires users know each other's unique usernames, and Facebook Messenger is of little use to the privacy-concerned. Google revealed its answer to natural, reliable, universal video messaging at Google I/O in May, and has now followed up with the release of the Duo one-to-one video calling app.
Central to Duo is its simplicity. Rather than needing a unique login, complete with another username and password to remember, the app uses the user's phone number to hook up with their contacts.
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One of the main issues with video calling is reliability, or lack thereof. To try and create a reliable, seamless experience, Duo is designed to automatically scale resolution based on the bandwidth available. It'll also switch between Wi-Fi and cellular data automatically, making it easier to make video calls on the move.
All of this sounds good, but it's also very similar to existing software. FaceTime also integrates with the contacts in a user's phone, and Skype does all it can to stop calls dropping out on poor connections.
Where Google thinks it will really set itself apart from the crowd is Knock Knock. In an attempt to make the whole experience feel more natural, the person receiving the call gets a live preview of what the caller is doing at the other end on Android Phones. Think of it like looking through the peephole on an old wooden door to see who's there.
As well as giving the person receiving the call some context about where it's coming from, it means the video is already up and running, making for a smoother experience. iOS users won't get the function unless Duo is already open, blame the software whizzes in Cupertino for that one.
The calls are also fully encrypted, making gooey long-distance catchups with your partner a more secure affair.
The free Google Duo app will be rolled out across the App Store and Play Store over the next few days. You can check it out in the video below.