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Google I/O 2016: Allo And Duo Offer Smart, Secure Messaging For iOS And Android

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Google I/O: Google attempts to monopolise mobile life even further with video app Duo and smart messaging app Allo that can reply for you

Google is attempting to compete with WhatsApp, Snapchat and iMessage with two new messaging applications that hope to keep people using its services, and inputting information, even when they’re communicating.

Allo and Duo will be available on Android and iOS this summer and claim to take a “fresh look” on how people connect – either with friends or family or in a business environment.

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Allo Allo

Google AlloIntegration with Google’s newly announced ‘Google Assistant’ is a key distinguishing feature of Allo, which learns how you interact and can even reply for you depending on the context of the message or even a photo thanks to image recognition technology.

“It will learn whether you’re more of a ‘haha’ vs. ‘lol’ kind of person,” explained Google. “The more you use Allo the more ‘you’ the suggestions will become. Smart Reply also works with photos, providing intelligent suggestions related to the content of the photo. If your friend sends you a photo of tacos, for example, you may see Smart Reply suggestions like ‘yummy’ or ‘I love tacos.’”

Google Assistant also delivers relevant information from Google into chats so you don’t have to leave the application. This includes weather, flight details, maps and sports scores and Assistant can even perform tasks like booking a table at a restaurant.

Crucially for businesses, Allo offers end to end encryption for chats with an ‘incognito’ mode similar to the one in Chrome. Incognito mode also offers ‘discreet’ notifications and Google says more features will be added in the future.

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Duo video

Duo is described as a simple video calling app with a minimal user interface. Again, it works with a phone number but has two unique selling points.

The first is that it works on poor networks, “gracefully” adjusting video quality from the highest 720p definition, and by seamlessly handing off from Wi-Fi to cellular. The other is that you can see a live preview of the caller before you decide whether to pick up. Again, all video calls are protected with end-to-end encryption.

Messaging has become an increasingly important battlefield for technology companies that want to keep users in their ecosystems for as long as possible so they view more ads and provide more information. Facebook has its own messaging platform that sits alongside its expensive WhatsApp acquisition, while Snapchat has added text messages and Apple has its iMessage service.

On the enterprise side, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), Skype and Slack are all seeking to generate subscription and licensing revenues.

Google has been busy in recent days, launching a new Spaces social network and collaboration application and rolling out Android Play in the UK.