Google's Duo, smart video calling with a revolution in simplicity

Duo, the latest communication app from Google

Google's Duo, smart video calling with a revolution in simplicity
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Duo, Google's new offering, is a simple, bare bones and no-fuss video-calling app that plans to make One-to-One video calls much more ubiquitous. Relying on your phone number instead of a Google account, Duo has the potential to finally bridge the gap between iOS and Android, when it comes to hassle-free video-calling. Read on to find out what makes Duo so special.

Duo is one of the two most hyped communication apps announced by Google in 2016, and for once, we can safely say that Google has hit the bull’s eye when it comes to video-calling on Android. The much-awaited and celebrated app has finally been rolled out across the world, and this is sure to spice up the battle of video-calling apps raging hot in the smartphone arena. While Apple enthusiasts will definitely say that it is little better than a knockoff of Apple’s FaceTime, a little examination can show us that it’s simply not the case. Along with Allo, Duo should be rightly hailed as a milestone achievement in Android’s functionality and usability.

What is Duo, actually?

All in all, Duo is (yet another) video-calling service, that lets you call your buddy if he’s got the app installed as well. It may seem similar to Hangouts, but it isn’t. While some video-calling apps and services require you to have unique accounts registered with them (like Skype), others are tied to your more commonly used IDs, like your Google or Facebook accounts (as in Hangouts and Messenger).

However, this is where Duo really shines. Instead of your Google account, it is tied to your phone number, which eases things up!

For example, if you need to switch your SIM to another handset, it becomes easy to fire up Duo and regain your account. Additionally, it takes away the task of registering yet another account for a simple video-calling app, eh? In our blazingly fast times, that counts for something.

What makes Duo so special?

OK, now comes the obvious question. What does Duo do that FaceTime doesn’t? Simple, while FaceTime needs you and your buddy to have iPhones both, Duo can run on both Android and iOS for the time, and may be extended to other platforms with time. Since it is tied to your SIM card, and not any other account, Duo can enjoy more flexibility and universality with time.

In addition to that, Duo is greatly barebones. It’s a video calling app, and just that! It doesn’t pack in audio-only calling facility, and there’s no text-messaging either. All this reminds me of the UNIX philosophy - Do one thing, and do it well (to put it in simple terms). As such, it is a no-fuss video communication app, that is relatively simple to use, and hassle-free to setup.

Main features of Duo

Here’s a brief look at the selling points of Duo.

Knock Knock: 

This is a powerful and intuitive new feature that lets you see what your buddy is doing on the other side, before you actually pick up the call. That is, before you actually press ‘Answer’, you get a live preview of the other side of the line, and therefore easily see who’s calling you. As Google puts it, it is sure to bring a smile to your face, provided that you actually like the person who’s calling you! But all in all, it’s a neat little feature that gives Duo an extra bit of liveliness.

If you’re using Android, you can see the live preview no matter where you - on your lockscreen, any other app or on Duo itself. But iOS users will have to settle with preview only while on the Duo app. Otherwise, they’ll get a notification telling them someone is calling them.

You can easily turn Knock Knock OFF from the menu, if you prefer not to peek into the other end of the line.

End-to-End encryption: 

Most video calling apps these days lack proper encryption. Skype isn’t truly as secure as you think it is, and Hangouts isn’t doing a good job either. But this is where Duo shines. Much like OTR (Off The Record messaging) in text messaging, Duo’s video chats are encrypted securely out of the box, and not even Google itself can decipher what’s going on between you and your folks. This is sure to give us an extra dose of much needed privacy.

No matter whether you think that you’ve got nothing to hide, every small detail in our communications can be (potentially) weaponized to harass us. This is the cost we have to pay for the functionality technology adds to our lives. That’s why, Duo’s inbuilt encryption really makes a strong case for trying it out.

Multi-platform availability: 

Since Duo is linked to your phone number, it’s a breeze to switch to a new phone. While FaceTime is between iOS users only, Duo can bridge the gap between iOS and Android users, and even the harshest Google-hating user of iOS shouldn’t feel too bad about installing it. After all, he/she doesn’t have to sign up for a Google account! A phone number/SIM card is all you need to activate Duo.

Seamless switching between WiFi and cellular data: 

When your WiFi reception is bad, Duo can intelligently switch to cellular data, although a 4G LTE connection will be ideal for smooth communication in that case. And when the WiFi reception is strong again, it can conserve data and switch back to WiFi. This is a nifty little feature that works behind the curtains, but makes our lives easier nonetheless.

Ability to register/unregister with a click:

Joining Duo is as easy as it gets. Just install the app from Play Store, fire it up and register. Google will send a verification SMS to your phone, which will help you activate Duo. Ta ra! That's it! And yes, if you dislike Duo, and want to de-link your phone number from it, it’s rather easy to do so from the app’s inbuilt menu.

OK, so why Duo?

Every single day, there are hundreds of new apps being uploaded to Google Play Store, and it’s rather mind-boggling to stay updated with the latest happenings in the world of tech. In this maze of new apps, apart from the Google tag on its name, Duo is something special, not only because it adheres to the KISS philosophy (Keep It Simple & Silly), but also due to its smooth and seamless integration with our digital lives. By keeping it focused on One-on-One communication, Google has ensured that it is different from the swiss army knives like Hangouts. It does one thing, and it plans to do it well.

Only time will tell whether Duo manages to grab the market-share it deserves, but one thing is true. Thanks to its bare bones simplicity, Duo will certainly ensure that many people with little or no tech experience will not be introduced to the world of video-communications, and the joy thereof!

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