Four months after announcing the product at Google I/O, Google Allo has finally launched. Allo is yet another attempt at a Google instant messaging platform, and while Google insists it won’t shut down its current IM product, Google Hangouts, it’s hard to imagine the new thing not replacing the old thing.
Back at I/O this year, Google announced not one, but two new communication apps. The video calling service, Duo, has already been released and everyone’s on the edge of their seat waiting for Allo to become officially available. So of course Google is planning to give Duo an update first…
After making a somewhat quiet appearance in the Play Store among suggested apps
When it comes to messaging apps, Facebook owned WhatsApp is the uncrowned king. With over 1 billion users, Whatsapp has trounced all its competitors by a large margin. And, Google has a while ago rolled out its messaging app, Allo, to counter WhatsApp. Let’s see if Allo has the features to take on Whatsapp or not.
The suggested responses pop up in text bubbles you can send by tapping. The recommendations are sufficient for the most part and can save users time, but are very basic and can feel a little impersonal.
During a recent test chat, Allo suggested “Very good!” to a message that read “How are you?” The app also thought we might say “Haha,” “Nice,” or “Yeah,” after we received a message that said “Interesting.” And when we got a picture message of a happy child, Allo suggested saying “Love that smile.”
Over time, Allo will learn if you prefer to say “haha” or “lol,” so the more you use the predictive feature, the better it will get at mimicking your speech style.
The other cloud-powered feature is the Google Assistant, which is Google’s new chat bot technology that lets your perform Google queries and see results right inside a chat window. This can be things like asking questions, showing a plane flight, or finding nearby restaurants. While you can do all of this at Google.com, doing it inside Allo means you can collaborate with a friend. Being able to do things like browse restaurant results together sounds like a great way to make dinner plans.
Allo also has an “Incognito mode” which will encrypt your chat session end-to-end and promises to not store them on a Google server. Encryption is an optional mode though, it’s not a default. There’s also SMS support for your friends that aren’t on Allo (which is everyone right now), lots of stickers, and the ability to take a picture and draw on it.
The rest of Allo is pretty much your standard instant messaging app. It doesn’t use your Google account though you “sign in” with a phone number and it doesn’t know who you are or who any of your friends are, which is rather odd. There’s also a big deal breaker for some people: client support. Google is currently rolling out clients for Android and iOS, and that’s it. There are no desktop or web clients.
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