Google Duo Aims to Make Easy Video Calling

Google on Monday launched Google Duo, a one-on-one video calling app that runs on iOS and Android.The app will be available worldwide in the next few days, said Justin Uberti, principal software engineer at Google.Duo switches from cellular service to WiFi, and transitions from high-speed to lower speed wireless service smoothly, promising to let users continue video calls irrespective of their location and service speeds, although video degradation may be apparent on slower services.A separate account isn't necessary to sign up for the app -- a phone number will suffice.

Duo users can begin a video call with a tap. A preview feature called "Knock Knock" lets Android users preview incoming calls even when Duo is not open. It also allows them to preview outgoing calls.However, it works on iOS only if the Duo app is open, and it doesn't give iOS users previews of outgoing calls.All Duo calls are encrypted end to end.

Duo is a barebones app, running only on mobile phones. It doesn't run on the Web via browsers or other desktop tools."Generally, it's better to keep something like this very simple at the start," suggested Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "That way you can deliver something that works reliably, and then build up features gradually without breaking the platform," he added. Also, a simple app will "be easy to learn."In contrast, Skype runs on PCs, smartphones or tablets, as well as on the Xbox One, PlayStation Vita and several smart TVs.

Google Hangouts -- which reportedly has upwards of a billion users -- runs on Windows, OS X, Linux and Chrome. It has an add-on for FireFox. It runs on iOS and Android, and it supports both one-on-one and group video calls.It also supports text, IM and SMS; integrates with Google Voice and Project Fi; and allows video overlays and effects. 

Video chat and IM client ooVoo links contacts from Facebook and users' phones, and lets them include up to 12 friends in the same session. It runs on Microsoft Windows, Windows Phone, OS X, Android, iOS and Facebook.

Facebook Messenger's features include video calls worldwide, as well as photo and video sharing, voice messaging, group chats -- and in the United States, money transfers."None of these apps are ubiquitous, and the best -- FaceTime -- doesn't work cross-platform," noted Enderle. "This provides an opportunity for a firm like Google -- with the right product -- to steal the market with some marketing."

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