While Allo and Duo launched at the same time about two and a half years ago, Duo has managed to actually carve out a space in the video chat space and not go the way of the dodo like Allo has. Quietly, Duo has managed to amass over 100 million downloads as of this past summer and continues to grow daily.
That growth is thanks to a few things, namely Google getting wise and allowing users to attach their Google accounts and use the service on multiple devices. The lack of those things didn’t help Allo’s case at all and, thankfully, Google made those changes before people left Duo altogether.
With those changes and small tweaks here and there, Duo has really become a fantastic service that I use pretty frequently. I have part of my family who are into Apple’s ecosystem, yet getting them set up on Duo was easy and painless. Now, when they want to video chat with us, they don’t default to Facetime. They go with Duo.
The big win with Duo is the fact that it is cross-platform. Users aren’t tied to only chatting with friends on iOS like they are with Facetime. Instead, iOS, Android and Chrome OS users can all video chat with one another regardless of their devices.
One way Duo has lacked, however, is the ability to chat with multiple users at once. Sure, Facetime has only added this recently, but when compared with much older services like Google’s own Hangouts, the lack of multi-user chat just feels like an oversight. Luckily, it is an oversight that is getting a correction.
Group Chats Are Coming
Thanks to an early look at an upcoming build of Google Duo from the folks over at Android Police, we can confirm that group video chats are on the way pretty soon from the look of things. What we can tell so far is group calls will be limited to 7 users that need to be pre-determined before the call starts and gives you the ability to save a group to your contacts for easier group calls later. At this point, you cannot add more users to the call during the call itself.
So, like we saw with Hangouts, you’ll need to create a group and then start up the call. The limit of 7 users is a bit of a bummer in light of Apple’s 32 user limit, but this is all early at this point. Google could bump the number up in the future, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Personally, I don’t see too much need for personal video chats with more than a handful of participants. When you need huge groups, it tends to be for work-related meetings and Google’s Hangouts Meet has you covered there with web-driven tech that will meet most user’s needs.
One other feature available in the preview is low light mode. Apparently, Duo will prompt you if your settings are a bit dim and boost up the brightness on your camera to compensate. For many users, this may or may not be a great feature. Front-facing cameras aren’t always the best, so taking a grainy image and adding brightness may just make things look worse. It could leverage a bit of Google’s low-light computational magic, though, and that would be pretty exciting.
Overall, this update will provide a much-needed feature for Duo moving forward. As Google has dubbed the front-facing camera on the Pixel Slate – it’s latest flagship device – the Duo Camera, it stands to reason they are planning quite a bit for the future of the video chat app.