The Google Duo Video Chat App

Google Duo aims to simplify the video chat experience

Google Duo is a video chat mobile app created by Google. Google Duo is free to use and works across both iOS and Android devices, unlike its competitor FaceTime, which works only for iOS devices. It can also be used with Google's Chrome browser on desktop and laptop computers.

Google Duo was built to be fast, reliable, and safe, but it remains to be seen if it will survive long-term amid Google's constantly changing communications portfolio.

Here's what you need to know about Google Duo.

This information applies to Google Duo on iOS devices, such as iPhones and iPads, as well as Android devices and the Chrome desktop.

Google Duo's Features

Google Duo aims to simplify the video chat experience with an easy-to-use interface, one-to-one video messaging, and an array of helpful features.

Simple to Use

No account or subscription is necessary. Simply sign up with your phone number and you’ll be able to reach the people in your phone’s Contacts list. Begin a video call with just a single tap.

Fast, Reliable, and Safe

Google Duo was designed for fast and reliable video calling. Call quality adjusts no matter what's happening on your network so your call stays connected, even when bandwidth is limited.

When you're on the go, Duo seamlessly switches between cellular data and Wi-Fi without dropping your call, maximizing your call's strength and bandwidth. Start a call at your house and continue without interruption as you leave and go about your day.

Google Duo features end-to-end encryption, so your calls are safe.

Google recommends connecting to Wi-Fi before making a Google Duo call. Using Wi-Fi will save data usage and may also provide a better video connection. If you can't access Wi-Fi, turn on your data.

Knock Knock

Google Duo offers a unique feature called Knock Knock, which lets you see live video of your caller before you answer. This may give you an idea of what the caller wants so you can decide if you feel like chatting.

The first time you make a call with Google Duo, it will say, "Smile! Knock Knock is on," alerting you to the fact that the person you're calling will see you appear on their screen while the phone is ringing.

High-Def Video Quality

Google Duo calls stream at 720p high-definition video quality, compressed for low-bandwidth phones using a mix of open-source and proprietary standards, including WebRTC.

Group Calling

Among some recently added features, Google Duo now boasts group calling, allowing up to eight people to participate in a group call. Like its one-on-one calls, group calls feature end-to-end encryption.

Screenshots of Google Duo video chat features

Video Messages

Another relatively new feature, video messages let you record a quick hello when you don’t have time to call or when the person you’re calling can’t pick up. Personalize video messages with text and emojis, or even draw on your message with a brush tool, as well.

Learn more about leaving and checking messages with Google duo using an iPhone, iPad, or Android device.

Google's Communications History

Google has offered a shifting and sometimes confusing mix of telecommunications products for consumers. Its portfolio has evolved along with Alphabet, its parent company.

Google Talk

Google Talk, also known as Google Chat, was primarily a text-based messaging tool that eventually supported some video capability. It was discontinued in 2015

Google+ Messenger

Google+ Messenger was a chat tool for Google+ users; it eventually merged into Hangouts.

Google Allo

Google Allo was an individual and group text messaging tool that was discontinued as of March 2019.

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts was originally a video service for Google+; it then became the default unified chat/video app for all Google customers. Now it's focused on enterprise customers with a split between Hangouts Meet (video) and Hangouts Chat (text).

Google Voice

Google Voice is a consumer VoIP platform, similar to Skype, which launched as a standalone app; its core technology merged into Hangouts.

Google Duo Bottom Line

Since Google has a history of building and discarding various messaging apps, some fear that Google Duo won't last. It's up against some serious competition in the video-chat arena, such as FaceTime, Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, and even its own cousin Hangouts.

Still, Google Duo is a solid, easy-to-use, and continuously improving video chat app that boasts some unique and fun features. If you and your friends and family are entrenched in the Google communications ecosystem, you'll find Duo to be fast, convenient, secure, and simple. Even if you're new to Google's communication tools, this video chat app is worth a try.