Google has released a video chatting app called Duo to rival Apple FaceTime. But unlike the case of Instagram ripping off Snapchat, Duo isn't just a carbon copy of FaceTime. Here's how Google has set Duo apart from Apple's popular iOS video calling feature, for better or for worse.
On the surface, Google Duo is extremely similar to Apple FaceTime: both facilitate one-on-one video calls, both have end-to-end encryption and, arguably, both look kind of the same. Video calls are supported on WiFi and mobile data connections although the video quality, as you would expect, varies depending on how good your connection is.
But Duo has a few distinct differences and the most obvious one is that it's an app that has to be downloaded, while FaceTime is built-in to the dialler of iOS devices. This may give Duo an edge since it is being released for Android and iOS, which means you're not limited to video calling friends that use the same operating system so long as each of you have the app installed.
Duo features a simple interface that deviates from its cousin Google Hangouts. The latter has a lot of extra bits that can be overwhelming for people who just want to make video calls. Duo doesn't want to be a 'Jack of all trades' communication tool; it just wants to be a video calling app and nothing else.
Another novel addition to Duo is the Knock Knock feature that let's you see a live video of your caller before you answer. According to Google, it aims to give users "a sense of what [the caller] is up to and why they want to chat" and "makes video calling more spontaneous and welcoming". Frankly, I find it a bit creepy and don't really see the point of it. I will likely disable it when I use Duo. Let me know in the comments if you disagree.
The global rollout is happening now and, as far as I can tell, Duo is not available in Australia just yet (at least not for Android). Wait a few more days and it should be ready to download over at the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
I don't really know how I feel about Duo. I'm a big user of Google Hangouts and it already bridges the mobile operating system divide since I use it to message and video chat with friends that use Android and iOS. The app also faces stiff competition from the likes of Skype and Facebook Messenger, both of which have video calling functions. Having said that, I'm curious to see if Duo will motivate me to change my video calling habits.
Will you be giving Google Duo a go? Let us know in the comments.
[Via Official Google Blog]