Google’s new video calling app Duo follows in the footsteps of FaceTime. Will Google’s Duo woo iOS users away from FaceTime?
Eye on Apple
By Jim Lynch, CIO
Google has released a new video calling app called Duo for iOS and Android. The app offers a very simple video calling experience that seems designed to compete with Apple’s popular FaceTime app. FaceTime, as you probably already know, comes with every Mac, iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
First, a bit about how Duo works. It’s available on both Android phones and iPhones. When you sign up, the app checks your phone number from your SIM and then sends you a confirmation text. That’s the whole setup process — there are no accounts to create nor friend lists to maintain. It’s tied directly to your contacts list and your phone number.
How Duo will actually compete was (and is) one of my biggest questions. Why use Duo when Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, FaceTime, Hangouts, and any number of other options exist? Is Google going to leverage the massive power of the Android install base somehow? Will Duo be part of the standard suite of Google Play apps preinstalled on the vast majority of Android phones (outside of China)? “We haven’t made decisions on that yet,” says Fox. “We want to get it out there, see how it does, and then I see distribution as the next step rather than the first step.”
I have no idea if that plan will work: sometimes boldness is just naiveté. But I can’t help but respect the clarity of purpose behind the creation of Duo. It’s aggressively, obsessively focused on making the best possible mobile experience for video chat, at the expense of all else. He said no to desktop, no to conference calling, no even to allowing the same account to work on multiple devices. For the Duo team, getting “mobile first” right meant demanding it be “mobile only.”
4. Duo is also Google’s umpteenth messaging app and will have to compete with the company’s other apps for resources and promotion.
So I see no reason for Apple to worry about Duo whatsoever. I doubt that it will attract many FaceTime users at all. There’s simply no reason for them to switch to Duo.
Duo might find a niche market for iOS to Android video calls
One area where Duo might get some traction is in making it easy for iOS and Android users to engage in video calls. Since Apple has still not made FaceTime available for Android users, it’s not possible for them to use it to talk to their iOS-using friends and family.
Duo might work well as a quick and easy way for Android and iOS users to talk to each other via video chats. In that sense it would fill the void left by Apple’s failure to offer FaceTime directly to Android users like it has with Apple Music.
I have friends who use Android, and it’s always annoyed me that I can’t use FaceTime to call them. So if they install Duo, I’ll probably install it on my iPhone too so we can do video calls.
On the other hand, there are already other apps that Android and iOS users can utilize for video calling. So it may be that even that niche might be out of Duo’s reach. We’ll have to wait to find out after Duo has been available for a while.
What others are saying about Google’s Duo app
As you might expect, news about Duo has drawn a lot of responses from users. It certainly caught the attention of folks in the Apple subreddit, so I’ll leave you with this selection of comments from a recent Duo thread:
Afruitpie: “Huge Android/Google fan here. Duo and Allo are going to fail so…hard and I couldn’t be more disappointed about it.”
Personaut: “Why can’t they just make something AND STICK WITH IT? It drives me bonkers. Why not just fix Hangouts? Why make another new thing? Argh.”
Jobuneedsarefill: “Because Google has always created far more services than they can effectively manage. They’ve shut down so many services over the years, that I’ve stopped relying on them for anything for fear that I may come to depend on something they made, only for them to shut it down. Google Reader is a perfect example. iGoogle is another.”
Bananakabobbb: “Just look at the article on the Verge where they interviewed the developer/guy in charge. It’s going to fail because he has absolutely no clue of the vision or direction of the product. He couldn’t have sounded less interested.”
Farcrypanda: “So it’s like hangouts/skype/FaceTime/every other video chat app except it works on fewer devices, has fewer features, fewer users, and requires a tie into a phone number rather than the option for an anonymous account– or even for that matter your existing google account.
Why the heck would I ever use this?”
Hamonrye: “Face time is so successful because you KNOW if someone has an iPhone you can instantly connect. This is just another app to ask people to install.”
Babysgotthebends: “But it’s cross platform, so if the person you’re trying to contact doesn’t have an iPhone you can do it with Duo, something you weren’t able to do with FaceTime.”
Ro31e5: “Or Skype, or Facebook Video, or WhatsApp.”
Codemonkey85: “I assume Google will start bundling Allo and Duo with Nexus devices. I’m not sure about other Android devices, and without those, this will never work as well as FaceTime.”
011111000101: “Why can’t all these companies get together and just decide on some kind of standard or some agreement on interoperability. I’m not going to install yet another app for video calling.”