Google Duo — an alternative to Skype, FaceTime, and Hangouts?


After unveiling it at Google I/O 2016, Google on Tuesday announced the launch of Duo, a 1-to-1 video calling app for Android and iOS. Duo aims to take the complexity out of video calling and make it more interactive with features like ‘Knock Knock’, and also improve video and audio quality over unstable network connections.

Google notes that Duo will not require users to create separate accounts — they can sign in using just their phone numbers and access everyone on their contact list. From there, users can instantly begin a video call. While there are multiple video calling apps in the market, Google aims to make Duo stand out by focusing on a few USPs:

No more call drops?

Google claims that Duo has been tweaked to work in areas with limited bandwidth by adjusting call quality according to the dynamic nature of network conditions. Duo aims to 'gracefully reduce' the resolution to keep the call going smoothly. For video calls on the go, Duo will switch between Wi-Fi and cellular data automatically without dropping the call. So users can start their call at home and continue seamlessly when they head out the door. Google notes,

We all know how it feels when a call fails to connect or when video gets choppy. We’ve built Duo to be fast and reliable, so that video calls connect quickly and work well even on slower networks.

Human design with 'Knock Knock'

To make calls feel more like invitations than interruptions, Duo comes with a feature called Knock Knock, letting users see live video of their caller before answering the call. This aims to give users a sense of what they’re up to and why they want to chat. With Knock Knock, Google aims to make video calling more spontaneous and welcoming.


Duo has been built with an emphasis on privacy and security. Google claims that all Duo calls are end-to-end encrypted. Amit Fulay, Group Product Manager, Google, said,

Video calling is the next best thing to being with someone in person. We have designed the interface to be simple, easy, and welcoming. In places like India, it has been designed to adapt to the network connectivity conditions. We hope to make the experience of video calling more personal, inviting, easy, and smooth.

Duo will be rolling out on Android and iOS starting today, and will be live worldwide in the next few days. At the time of publishing this story, Google Duo was only open for pre-registrations on Android and unavailable on iOS.

Never too late?

Google was late to the search engine party, but still went on to annihilate the competition, gaining unbeatable market share and revenue. With Duo, it now looks to be aiming for an encore in the video messaging space. Google was already active in this space with Google Hangouts and Apple too has FaceTime, its own proprietary video calling app.

Then there are multiple third-party services too that are extremely popular. Microsoft-owned Skype is one of the pioneers in the space, while Facebook Messenger, Viber, and WeChat are some of the other popular choices worldwide.

The video messaging space is still in its infancy in many markets worldwide because of the high cost of cellular data and unstable networks. But the situation is slowly improving and there seems to be tremendous opportunity in this market for startups and enterprises to cash in on.