Google Allo Tries to Outsmart Facebook Messenger

Google wants you to quit Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, SnapChat and WhatsApp in favor of its new Allo and Duo messaging apps, coming this summer. Allo offers new smart replies that gets the context of your messages and can let you make dinner reservations for you and a friend without leaving the app. Duo is a video messaging app that allows you to preview who's calling you, which looks more creepy than cool.

Why the two apps can't be combined into one app is perplexing, Allo does sound fairly interesting, though. It's built with plenty of emojis, swipe typing and stickers. You can write on photos that you can embed. And there's a microphone that seems to indicate you could dictate your messages. Plus, Google says the app offers end-to-end encryption.

One interesting advancement on the competition is Whispers Shout. This feature brings up a sliding bar that changes the size of the font or emoji on your message to indicate if you're really excited or just whispering.  

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Google also brought smart replies to Allo to help you reduce the amount of typing you need to do. Through the company's machine learning, it knows if you've just been asked to dinner or when you'll be getting home. In this example, you could tap "I'm in" for dinner or "On my way."

Google will also be able to identify the content of a photo and suggest replies. In the demo at Google I/O, the Allo smart assistant could identify linguini and clams in a pic, suggesting three separate replies. It also knew a dog was cute and what breed it is.

Allo's smarts don't stop there. If you're in the middle of a chat, you can type @google before a question. If you ask for Italian restaurants nearby, the smart search can bring up cards for restaurants and can make a reservation with time and number of people through OpenTable. All this appears in your chat with a friend. Or you can chat directly with Google to find out things like recent sports scores or weather reports. Plus, Google can play games in the chat, such as name that movie through emojis. 

I was particularly interested to learn Google's Allo allows Incognito in chat, which means you can send private notifications and set an expiration date/time for your chats. Plus, when you delete a conversation, it's gone forever.

The search giant's second app announcement today (May 18) was its new video messaging app, Duo. Like FaceTime, you simply tap a contact to make a call. What other video messaging apps can't do is the Knock Knock feature. It shows a live video stream of the person that's calling you before you answer. While I can see this becoming a way for perverts to behave badly (Surprise, it's me and I'm naked!) it is a new way to screen calls. But from the video in the demo it looks like this live stream will even show up on your phone's lock screen. 

Will you be making the switch to either of these new apps? If so, let us know in the comments. 

Anna Attkisson
Anna Attkisson is the editorial director at Tom's IT Pro. After getting infected with the tech bug at Wireless World and Cellular Business magazines as an intern in 1998, Anna Attkisson went on to dabble in a sorts of publications covering everything from children’s fashion to cars. During the last 9 years she’s returned to her roots where she’s been writing and editing for Laptop Mag and Tom’s Guide, before moving on to Tom’s IT Pro. Follow Anna Attkisson at @akattkisson.