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Google Duo,  a video-calling app that is a direct alternative to Apple’s FaceTime and Microsoft’s Skype, is officially announced and released for download on Google Play and the Apple Apps Store. Google allows both Android and iOS devices to use the service, while FaceTime only allows iOS and Mac users to video call on Apple devices.

Duo only works on smartphones. All you need is a phone number. That’s it. It is actually simpler to use than making a phone call.

Duo allows only one on one video calls (no group calls, you will have to use Google Hangouts for that!). As the Official Google Blog puts it, “You shouldn’t have to worry about whether your call will connect, or if your friend is using the same type of device as you are. It’s no wonder that nearly half of us never make video calls on mobile.” Google made Duo simple to use which is the app’s core mission. CNN Money, reports, “Google says it is a part of the company’s plan to make Duo as simple as possible. The team was “almost maniacal” about that goal, Nick Fox, Google’s VP of Communications Products, told CNNMoney last week.” Nathan Ingraham, engaget, explains, “Duo is even simpler than FaceTime, and far simpler than Google’s own Hangouts app, which the company says will now be more focused on business and enterprise users. In that focus on simplicity, Fox and his team left out a number of features you might find in other video-calling apps.”

Dieter Bohn, The Verge, writes, “There is one feature in Duo that feels genuinely new: it’s called “Knock Knock.” When you receive a call on Android (it doesn’t work on the iPhone), your entire screen starts showing the live video from your caller before you even answer. It lets you see who’s calling — and lets the caller make funny faces to try to entice you to answer. Google’s promo video for Duo emphasizes it heavily.”

Michael Addady, Time, wrote an article, Google Duo vs. FaceTime vs. Skype vs. Messenger: How They Stack Up, worth reading.

Why Another Video Calling App?

Samuel Gibbs, theguardian, has some insight into this question: “If Duo becomes one of the required apps from Google, it could displace the competition as the default video calling app on Android smartphones, which may be enough to convince iPhone users to install it……Google sees Hangouts as part of its enterprise and productivity solution, integrating with calendar and email and employed by Google Apps users. Meanwhile, a third Google arm is working a system for the rich communications services (RCS) standard that is currently under development from the telecoms industry body, GSMA, which is destined to replace SMS and MMS messaging services.”

With the release on August 15, 2016, there are some praise for Duo and some critics. First, the rave reviews and scroll down for the critics.

Rave Reviews

Brian X Chen, The New York Times, says, “if I had to video call an Android user, I would use Duo over other video-calling services like Skype or Facebook Messenger, which have more cluttered interfaces than Duo’s single-button approach.”

Nathan Olivarez-Giles, The Wall Street Journal, says, “In a sea of messaging apps, Duo stands out for what it doesn’t do.”

Paul Blake, ABC News, writes, “Another feature worth noting is encryption. Google, which has championed encryption despite concerns that encryption technologies could be used for criminal or terrorist activity, has said that all calls on Duo will be encrypted end-to-end.”

David Pierce, Wired, writes, “After using Duo for about a week, I can say it is among the best video-chat apps around. Google’s clever back-end work lets you switch from Wi-Fi to cellular with just a brief stutter. It’s as stable as any video chat I’ve used, even on crappy connections. The best thing about Duo is its simplicity.”

c/net says, “Duo bridges the gap between iOS and Android. With its quirky Knock Knock feature, simplistic approach and data encryption, Duo makes it a whole lot easier to say hi and wave hello.”

androidpolice says, “Google uses a protocol called QUIC in Duo that allegedly allows for better video quality than competing video chat services. Duo can detect poor WiFi quality and flip over to mobile data seamlessly as well.”

Josh Constine, TechCrunch says, “You open it, with no need for a Google account, and see the camera facing you. At the bottom is a list of recent calls and frequent contacts, with another tab that contains a full list of contacts who either have or don’t have Duo. Start a call and it goes full-screen. If someone misses a call, they’ll get a notification. That’s basically it. Don’t expect any Hangouts mustaches or costumes, but the video quality is solid.”

Edward C. Baig, USA Today, writes, “Google has hardly reinvented the video calling wheel with Duo, and if you already have a video calling favorite, there isn’t a huge incentive to switch. But Duo does offer one more easy way for folks to make such a call.”

Emil Protalinski, Venture Beat, writes, “All Duo calls are end-to-end encrypted by default. Because the calls are set up via Google’s servers and rely on peer-to-peer technology, encryption is a must to ensure none of the intermediate networks can tap into your call…..For one-to-one calls though, it’s a worthy contender.”

Nathan Ingraham, engaget, writes, “Duo actually does make video chat easier than making a phone call.”

Easy Setup

For Android users, androidcentral gives you the steps to use Duo. Greenbot wrote an article, 8 things you need to know about Duo, Google’s new video chat app.

Critics of Duo

Apple Insider, writes, “Initial AppleInsider testing showed an initial period of negotiation between devices, with the video quality oscillating between very good and poor — but the initial “knock knock” stream was consistently bad and severely pixellated. This negotiation period lasted about 10 seconds after the recipient accepted the call on both 4G and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, with consistent good quality thereafter.”

JR Raphael, Computer World, writes, “And by starting over yet again with Yet Another New Messaging Service, Google is putting itself in the difficult position of having a quiet little gathering right around the corner from the hoppin’ hot spots where everyone’s already hanging out. Convincing people to come inside and stay isn’t going to be easy.”

Darren Orf, Gizmodo, headlines, Google’s Duo Isn’t a FaceTime Killer.

Nate, Swaner, The Next Web, writes, “Instead, we have to first ask ourselves how we want to get hold of someone, and then decide which app is best for that purpose — the one we already have, or the shiny new thing with a few non-essential bells and whistles.”

Khris Karlon, Android Authority, “While I don’t want to call Duo dead in the water just yet – I firmly believe it might carve out a niche if it can deliver solid stable video chat – I just can’t see it being part of the new wave of Google messaging apps (along with Allo) that will unify and ultimately replace all of Google’s other failed attempts.”

Emil Protalinski, Venture Beat, writes,”All of this makes Duo great, at least on paper. And in our testing, it’s a very snappy video calling app. But it’s still very early days, and while it has many advantages over Hangouts, or even Skype, it’s also missing a ton of features.”

Ron Amadeo, ARS Technica, writes, “The Duo/Allo plan didn’t make a ton of sense when it was announced, and it doesn’t make a ton of sense now….Hangouts is generally neglected and mismanaged, but pushing users away from Hangouts and toward a less fully featured product doesn’t feel like a good answer. Forget about the rest of the world, Google has a lot of work to do if it even wants to win its own users over.”

Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, writes, “The Snapchat-esque live video calling feature is actually pretty creepy….Google still has to win over Android consumers—that’s over 80% of the worldwide smartphone market—who can use Microsoft’s Skype and Google’s own Hangouts. Plus, these platforms offer file transfers, text messaging and group calling, in addition to one-on-one calls, so “Knock Knock” won’t be enough to convert them to Duo users.”