October 10, 2016
Every day, there are always two tabs open on my computer. The first two things I open are Todoist and Gmail. I do most of my communicating with the outside world via Gmail and Hangouts. I also have my Google Voice number send messages and voicemail into Hangouts. I still use Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp for some communication but I would say that I am a heavy Hangout user. It was always an app that made sense; a real time chat inside Gmail where you can continue the conversation on your phone. The product worked well for my needs. However, it was lacking some things in terms of the modern messaging apps. It didn’t have the latest movie stickers like you could get on Facebook or the apps inside of iMessage.
Months back, Google announced two new messaging apps – Duo and Allo. They were essentially video chat split out into its own experience and all other chats into their own app. The splitting made sense and is something that a lot of people do, including Apple. But during the whole announcement, Google never mentioned Hangouts, what it was going to do and how it was going to fit into the chat ecosystem.
As with all Google products, I was excited to try Duo and Allo. I had the latest Nexus and I basically use Google everything so why not? Duo was released first and it was a good video chat program. I hardly ever video chat but with the first test, it was fine and fast. If you video chat a lot, it makes some sense to use as you can jump in and out of calls faster than anything I have seen.
Just yesterday, Allo came out on iOS and Android. I had a number of concerns about the product going into launch but, hey, it’s Google. I got a lovely little notification because I preregistered on the Play Store.
When, you first boot it up, the signup process is fast but I had nobody in my contacts that had the app or using it yet, so it was a ghost town with the Google Assistant
The Google Assistant is basically Google’s chat bot. Think of it as a text version of Google Now. You can have it answer all kinds of questions and do tasks for you. I set a calendar event, was able to search through some emails, and looked up some local restaurants.
There was a lot of interesting hooks into other Google services and it is just scratching the surface. Google can add support for Drive and Google Keep, but the assistant is going to be the big thing out of this.
Messaging should be universal. That is what Facebook gets right. It is on every device and it just keeps adding features to the core product.
I have only used Allo once since it was launched. It is one of the rare Google products that has upset me. I wish this stuff were available to me in other products and across the Google ecosystem. I would love to be able to pull up the assistant when using other Google apps or have an Android feature like a chat head that would allow me to access this and truly start to make this an assistant.
It is going to be something to watch but there is nothing here yet.
Written by John Siwicki who lives and works building interesting things. You should follow him on Twitter