Move over, FaceTime, Google Duo is here

by Marie Dumayac
Eagle News Service Colorado

COLORADO, USA (Eagle News) — iPhone users who love FaceTime have been waiting for FaceTime to be open to rival devices. The wait is over… but not within FaceTime. On August 16, Google released its new app Duo, a direct alternative to FaceTime. Duo is available on Apple and Android phones allowing video calls between these two platforms in a smooth and simple process.

Signing up for Duo

After downloading the Duo app (available on App store and Google Play), you can easily sign up with your mobile number. Immediately after signing up, you will receive a text message that contains a code in which you have to enter the Duo app to complete the signup process. Voila, welcome to Duo!

Simplicity to the fullest

With all the video calling apps available, what makes Duo different compared to other video calling apps such as, well, Google Hangouts?

A screen grab from Google Duo website (courtesy
A screen grab from Google Duo website (courtesy

Duo prides itself for being a simple video calling app. What iPhone users love about FaceTime is that the video call works just like a phone call – it’s built in on your phone so making a video call feels like just making a phone call, having to only open your Contacts list or FaceTime to start one. Google made sure that Duo works that way, sparing consumers of having to remember yet another username and password to use this app.

Duo is exclusively for video calling. And it’s only between two people… Duo, after all, is the name of the app. So there are no group chats or group calling functionality in Duo. Don’t expect any fancy feature or any of those funny features you’re used to on Hangouts either (birthday hat and cake, anyone?) . Remember the keyword of Duo: simplicity.

When you’re already on the app, on a video call with someone, Duo only offers 3 buttons: the end button, the mute button, and the button to toggle back and forth between the front and back camera.

Keeping with the simplicity theme, Duo is only available on your phone and cannot be used on PCs, Macs, or tablets.

Duo’s unique feature

Not to be outdone, however, Duo has a fun feature that other video calling apps don’t offer: the Knock Knock functionality. Knock, Knock… Who’s there? Thanks to Knock Knock, you can now see the live video of the caller… prior to even picking up the call! Seeing the face of friends and loved ones could immediately put a smile on your face. Google’s vision on this feature is to surprise the person you’re calling before the “answer” button is even pressed making them not want to miss out the moment that you already are relaying to them… Is it someone’s birthday yet? Surprise them with a real cake from the other line by showing it to them as you wait for them to answer.

Knock Knock previews only work with the people who are already on your contact list so no need to worry about getting random calls from strangers.

If Knock Knock just doesn’t excite you, you can disable the Knock Knock functionality. Disabling Knock Knock is not per caller, though, so disabling it means disabling it for all your callers.

Another thing that is noticeable on Duo is how small your own video is, allowing you to focus more on the person on the other line, barely noticing your own video.

Privacy and security

Duo allows you to block callers but keep in mind that Duo uses the contact list on your phone so blocking callers on your Duo app will block them everywhere on your phone.

Duo prides itself for offering end-to-end encryption, winning users who worry about privacy, making them feel more at ease during the video call.

While iPhone users may not rush on switching to Duo, and others might prefer the video calling apps that they love and have gotten used to, Duo shows that it can compete with other prominent video calling apps, standing out uniquely and bravely by stripping away the fancy features of video calling apps.  It does so by focusing only on functionalities that is loved about FaceTime and stepping it up a notch by making the app available to both iOS and Android users, thus bridging the gap in video calling between the two platforms that iOS users have been waiting for.