How to Set up and Use the Google Duo Chat App

Works on both Android and iOS devices

An image of two women having a video call on their smartphones.

 

seb_ra / Getty Images

Duo is Google's own video calling app, which now comes pre-installed on many of the latest Android devices. Duo is like Apple's FaceTime app, but while FaceTime can only be used on Apple devices, Duo is available for iOS, on the web, on your Chromebook, and even on smart display devices like the Google Nest Hub Max.

What About Google Hangouts?

Hangouts was Google's original video calling app. It's still available, but it's been split into two separate services (Meet and Chat) and is now geared more toward enterprise users.

Hangouts Meet is for video calls with up to 100 users; Hangouts Chat is for text chats with up to 150 users. Duo, on the other hand, is designed for having casual one-on-one or small group calls. It's also a completely free service, making it a great alternative to competing paid services like Skype.

All you need to use it is an active phone number and access to a device that can receive SMS text messages.

How to Set up Google Duo on Your Mobile Device

Although Duo can be used on a wide variety of devices, including computers and smart displays, the following instructions will focus specifically on using Duo via the mobile app.

These instructions for using the Duo app apply to both Android and iOS.

  1. Download and open the Duo app for Android or iOS.

  2. Tap Agree (Android) or I agree (iOS) to agree to the Terms of Services and Privacy Policy, then tap Give access to allow Google Duo to access your device's microphone, camera and contacts.

  3. Enter your phone number into the given field for verification and tap Next. You'll receive a verification code by text.

  4. Enter the verification code into the given field to finish setting up your account.

  5. Optionally, to customize your settings, tap the three dots in the top right corner, then tap Settings from the drop-down list.

    Next button, Verification code, Settings on iOS Duo

From here you can:

  • Turn Knock Knock on or off: When this is on, people who you call will see a live video of you as you're calling them, before they decide to pick up.
  • Turn low-light mode on or off: Use this setting to optimize your video calls under appropriate light conditions.
  • Limit mobile data usage: When turned on, Duo will lower your connection to 1Mbsp when you can't connect to Wi-Fi.
  • Turn notifications on or off: Keep notifications on to take calls.
  • See blocked users: Keep a running list of people you've blocked.
  • Add your Google account: Connect Duo to your Google Account to use the service across multiple devices and help people you're connected to through other Google services (like Gmail) find you on Duo.

How to Use Google Duo to Make Video Calls

You can use Duo to have a one-on-one call or a group call, with video enabled in both cases.

The following instructions can be followed using the Duo app for both Android and iOS.

  1. To make a one-on-one call, open the Duo app and tap Search contacts or dial.

  2. Your contacts who are already on Duo will be listed at the top. For the purpose of this step-by-step guide, we'll show you how to call someone from your contacts who's already on Duo. Tap a contact's name to see your calling options.

    if you want to call someone who isn't yet on Duo, you can enter their phone number in the field at the top or scroll down to see rest of your contacts and tap Invite next to their name to send them an invitation to add you on Duo via text message.

  3. Tap Video call in the bottom middle of the screen to call them immediately for a video chat. Your screen with show what your front-facing camera sees as the call rings.

    Search contacts or dial field, Contact, Video call
  4. When the other person picks up, you'll see them in full screen and you'll see yourself in the bottom left. You can tap the smaller screen in the bottom left to switch who you want to see in full screen. You can also tap and hold the smaller screen to drag it around anywhere you want it to be on the screen.

    If you want to call someone without going on video, tap Voice call instead.

  5. When you want to end a one-on-one call, just tap End call.

If you're ending a group call for a group that you just created, you'll be given the option to name the group. Enter a name for the group and tap Save. All members will see the group and group name in their own Groups section.

How to Send a Message if No One Answers

If you try calling someone and they don't answer, Google Duo will say they're unavailable. In this case, you can send them an optional message.

  1. Tap Message.

  2. Tap the red button to start recording a short message up to 30 seconds. You can also tap the camera flip icon to flip your camera, tap Voice to leave just a voice message, or tap the photos icon to send a photo or video from your device.

  3. Once you stop recording, you'll be shown a preview of your message. You can also tap the text or drawing options at the top to add text or draw something over your message.

You can also record a message quickly by swiping down from the main tab. After you record your message, you can choose who you want to send it to (up to eight contacts in total).

How to Make a Group Call

You can use Duo for group calls as well, and it's just as straightforward as a one-on-one call.

  1. To make a group call, instead of tapping Search contacts or dial on the main tab, tap Create group.

  2. Tap the checkbox beside the contacts you want to add to your group and then tap Done.

    You can only have up to eight people in a group.

  3. The group will be created and you can tap the blue Start button to call every member of the group.

    Create group, checkboxes for group members, Start button in Google Duo
  4. When you want to end a group call, tap End call.