Allo and Duo, Google’s new chat and video calling apps have been some of the most anticipated apps from Google since Inbox launched almost two years ago. Unfortunately, for me, they have fallen far short of my hopes and dreams for the services, and Allo isn’t even out.
The promise of Duo was a simple video chat app that was universally available across platforms – it turns out it’s only across Android and iOS, not very cross platform – and would let users signup with nothing more than a phone number (i.e. no Google account needed) was a great idea. Google delivered Duo this month and did indeed deliver a clean easy to use simple video chat app that offers excellent video and call quality.
What it didn’t deliver however is multi-device support or any web/ desktop client. Duo is a single device service, you get just one device per phone number, that’s it. In the world of ubiquitous cloud computing, I am stunned and amazed at this. Google is at the very forefront of multi-device cross-platform services and yet their latest chat app to launch them into messaging success lacks basic cloud features.
One of the major boasting points of this cloud work is multi-device support, you can have the same data and service on your, phone, tablet, desktop, and even watch for some things. Imagine my disappointment when I found out that by activating Duo on a second device my first device was now deauthorised (something there was no prompt for/ warning about by the way) if you can’t imagine it think Old Yeller.
There are those that say this is to keep it simple, that for people who only use their phone this makes sense, it keeps it simple. To this I say poppycock. If you only want to use one device you’re only going to install it once, I dismiss this opinion. I also refuse to accept the argument that there were “technical reasons” for this decision. I use Telegram, which authenticates via text message if you want, and I can install that on almost any device on the planet, so if Telegram, WhatsApp, line etc can do it you know Google can.
I see this as a failure to deliver a service that meets the needs of even novice consumers”, When I told my wife it would only work on her phone and not the tablet or PC she said “nope that’s stupid, I’ll stick with Hangouts”, my wife is not a techie in any way.. For an average consumer to not want to use the product because it is locked into a single device supports my claims that Google has missed the target with this approach.
I’m not a big user of video calling so I’m not too devastated by this, I may not need counselling to get over it. However, like most of you I use messaging services ALOT. I would dearly love to be able to use Allo as my primary messaging service. However, if recent rumours are correct then Allo will also be a single device service. This makes Allo and its marvelous Google Assistant features unusable for me.
My message workflow is finely tuned, I’ve got my phone for when I’m out and about or not near another device, I’ve got my PCs for when I’m in my home or work office, a tablet or Chromebook for the lounge and a tablet in the bedroom. On a typical day, I will access Telegram and Hangouts (my primary chat apps) on 5 different devices, at a minimum. If I used Allo I’d be re-authenticating all day long, of course, they don’t offer a web interface so that would remove those authentications, unfortunately, as my phones on silent, I’ll just be missing those messages.
Does it really matter? I suppose not, I can continue to use Hangouts and Telegram (or any number of competing services) for my cross-platform, multi-device messaging and video chat needs. What I want to know is how Google, a company building the next wave of cloud infrastructure, got this so wrong? Making it simple doesn’t mean removing advanced features, or it shouldn’t
Having a simple service that anyone can sign into and use simply is great, I applaud them for that, but why remove the option for more advanced features? Yes, it is release month for Duo, and Allo isn’t even out, so these features could come. However, I maintain that to launch these services today without them is a complete miss.
What do you think of these services launching as single device mobile only apps? let us know below.