Google launched Google Duo today, a FaceTime competitor of sorts which allows you to video chat with friends and colleagues using your mobile pone. Similar to faceTime, video calls are initiated by just pressing a button. If the person you’re calling answers, you’re joined together into a video chat where you can then communicate just like you can on services such as Skype and FaceTime.
It’s a bare bones service, used just for video chatting, which many reviewers consider both a strength and a weakness.
Google already offers video calls through hangouts. Those, which are often initiated from a computer, offer features like sound effects and sticker-like images that can give callers hats, funny glasses, or other interesting props. With Google Duo you don’t get any of that. The simple app is meant to do one thing: place video calls, and based on early reviews it does that admirably.
Setting up an account of the service simply involves signing up with your phone number and then responding to a confirmation text. Unlike FaceTime, which is tied to your email address, Duo is tied to your phone number. That’s great when you want to talk to people in your contacts list, but could potentially become problematic if you ever wanted to initiate a video call from another device, for instance a tablet.
Google Duo is available for Android and iOS, but for the time is mobile only. That means that you won’t be able to accept a video call on your laptop (a popular move for FaceTime calls), which could potentially get awkward depending on how long you’re chatting. Even with today’s larger screens, video chatting on your phone tends to start to feel a bit awkward fairly quickly.
One interesting feature in Duo: a Knock Knock feature. Only available for Android, the feature allows you to see a live video of the person that is calling you before you answer. That person could make faces, or do things to entice you to answer. At the very least, you’ll be able to see your boss is pissed before hitting that answer button.