Despite being called smartphones majority of users hardly use their mobile devices for voice calls anymore these days. Of course, some still do, but even those usually course it through VoIP services rather than regular cellular lines. With phone calls practically a dead venue, Google is turning its attention to what it bills as the next best thing to communicating with someone with a personal touch: video calls. But as nice as the thought may be, video chat is also the most unreliable medium. That is why Google is finally launching its Duo app and service to make video calls a piece of cake.
Google’s FaceTime, as others call it. But you will never see Apple make FaceTime available on a rival’s platform. In contrast, Duo is available for both Android and iOS (sorry Windows 10 users). But aside from those differences, Google Duo will indeed call to mind FaceTime because of its goals of ease of use and simplicity. And that’s not exactly a bad thing.
Unlike almost every other chat service out there, you only need a phone number to start using Duo. No additional signups, although you both need to have Duo installed on your smartphones, of course. And all you need is the phone number of your chatmate and you’re good to go. The interface is as simple as it can be as well, no extra cruft, ads, or toggles to make life a hell for either user. In fact, it’s so simple that it doesn’t even have provisions for group video chats or conferencing. Unless, of course, you happen to be in the same place anyway.
Google Duo does have one peculiar feature not found even in FaceTime. Google calls it “Knock Knock” and it gives the callee a live preview of the caller before picking up the call, just to make sure it’s no hoax. It is both a “human” feature as well as a security one. At the same time, it makes keeping surprises a bit more difficult. Speaking of security, Google promises that Duo calls use end-to-end encryption, so that no one can spy on your video call. Unless they’re nearby.