Google has had its fair share of high profile flops in the last couple of years. Google Plus and Google Glass quickly come to mind as two products that, while they certainly sounded like enticing innovations from the Mountain View tech giant, couldn’t quite find a foothold in the market for one reason or another. Google Plus couldn’t compete with the hundreds of millions of Facebook users who were already tied into that ecosystem, and Google Glass fell flat due to the awkward nature of the device, and the privacy (or lack thereof) concerns that came with it. Google’s newest creation, Google Duo, aims to keep things simple by taking a no-nonsense, bare bones approach to video chat. With so many different apps allowing users to customize their social experiences, Google Duo sticks to its goal of providing reliable, high quality video chat.
While Google Duo may seem like a boring, utilitarian app, it’s got a number of features that make it more fun than it initially sounds. The Knock Knock feature, available only on Android devices, allows you to see a video feed of the person calling you, before you even answer the phone. Think of it like your phones version of the peep hole on your front door. Pranksters looking to embarrass you in public with some risque Knock Knock previews won’t be a problem, since the feature only works with saved contacts, and even then you can still block people who abuse the feature. The app is available on both iOS and Android, but as is the case with most Google products, it runs better and is more fully featured on the Android platform.
Google Duo will surely compete with Snapchat, Skype, and other messaging and social media apps, but it’s primed to offer users something a little different than what they are used to getting. And that is simplicity. The app will no doubt be a hit with older people who have no desire to learn the ins and outs of every application, as well as people who just want a no-frills video messaging service. Google seems poised to reinvent the way their users communicate with each other, and Google Duo is a great first step.