Google to rival Skype and FaceTime with chat app

Google Duo is a mobile-only chat app with a simple user interface but also features a twist

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Google to rival Skype and FaceTime with chat app The video chat app is available on mobile devices running Google's Android OS and Apple's iOS. (Google)
By  Aasha Bodhani Published  August 16, 2016

Google is paving its way into the video chat application market by announcing the arrival of Google Duo, a mobile-only service.

The video chat app is similar to Apple's FaceTime, Microsoft's Skype and Facebook's calling feature built inside Messenger, and it is available on mobile devices running Google's Android OS and Apple's iOS.

Google's aim is to take the complexity out of video calling by creating a simple interface, and using phone numbers rather than a Google account of Gmail email address, meaning users can use their contact lists stored on their smartphones.

However there is an added twist, a feature dubbed "Knock Knock", which makes Google slightly stand out from the crowd, by allowing Android users to receive a call where the screen shows a live video from the caller before the actual video call is answered. The feature is not yet available on iOS.

As-well-as simplicity, Google focused on reliability, meaning when network conditions change during a call, Duo will reduce the video resolution to ensure the call runs smoothly. Duo also tries to switch between WiFi and cellular data automatically without dropping the call. Google also states that all Duo calls are end-to-end encrypted by default.

"We forced ourselves to think exclusively about the phone and design for the phone," said Nick Fox, Google VP of communications products. "The desktop experience is something we may build over time. But if you look around the world at the billions of people that are connected to the internet, the vast majority have one device, and that device is a phone. So it was critical for us to really nail that use case."

This not Google's first attempt to crack the market, the search engine giant's existing video calling and messaging app, Hangout, required a Google account which slowed its adoption. During Google's I/O developer conference Google introduced Duo, as-well-as Allo, a text-based communication app, which uses Google Assistant to communicate.

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