Google Duo Getting Multi-Device Support, Account Linking In v27

Just about a month ago, we reported on a tweet from Justin Uberti that seemed to confirm Chromebook support for Google’s video messenger, Duo. There wasn’t explicit understanding at the time how this new function would become a reality, only a confirmation that Chromebooks could use Duo at some point in the future.

According to an APK Teardown by Android Police, it turns out the answer might end up being the simplest one: account linking.

As it stands right now, Duo (like Allo) is tied to the user’s phone number. One device per phone number. If you install and set up a different device, you can use it but will also lose functionality on the original device.

I get the tie-in with your phone number. I do. It makes the barrier to entry very low and it is easy to get up and running for users that don’t have (or don’t want) a Google account. Limiting both of their new services to this restriction, however, has hurt Google’s newest messaging strategy. I’ve said from the beginning that Google should do a little of both. Let users run Allo and Duo with their phone number first, but allow that number to be linked to a Google account if desired.

And it seems that is finally happening with Duo. I’d assume Allo’s version of this is on the way too. Check out the language found in version 27 of the Duo APK:

<string name=”linked_gaia_account_found_details”>If ‘%s’ belongs to you, sign in to use Duo on multiple devices. Or skip if you prefer to use Duo only on this device. To add devices, sign into your Google Account at any time.</string>

<string name=”linked_gaia_account_found_title”>We found a Google Account associated with this number.</string>

<string name=”linked_gaia_account_found_skip”>Skip</string>

It doesn’t take an expert coder to see this and realize Duo will soon be allowing users to opt-in to linking up a Google account for much broader use.

What Are The Benefits?

The primary benefit to users will be the ability to log in and use Duo across multiple devices. Sure, there will likely be a limit on the number of concurrent devices you can be logged into at one time, but even a handful will be enough for most folks.

So, if you have a phone, tablet, and a laptop, you’ll be able to make and receive Duo calls from any/every one of these devices, including Chromebooks. There really won’t be a need for a web component at this point for this to happen, either. You’ll simply be able to install the Android app, sign in, and make calls.


This also opens up the unique possibility for Google to make a very cohesive calling platform that can run across all platforms. Android? Check. iOS? Check. Chrome OS? Check.

If the rumor that iOS apps will soon be able to run on MacOS holds any water, you’ll instantly have Duo there as well. Past that, it isn’t a far cry to imagine Google making a Duo app for MacOS and Windows as well.

At that point, with all your phone contacts linked into your Duo app via your Google Account, you’ll be able to take standard and video calls from any device you own.

Any device.

Regardless of how all this plays out over time, I’m simply excited to see the chains coming off Google’s quite-excellent messaging apps so that we can full take advantage of them on Chrome OS. As much as I like the web app version of Allo, I’d love to see this happen for it as well.

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Robby Payne

Tech junkie. Musician. Web Developer. Coffee Snob. Huge fan of the Google things. Founded Chrome Unboxed because so many of my passions collide in this space. I like that. I want to share that. I hope you enjoy it too.

View Comments

  • About time... it's the biggest thing holding me back from using it and from recommending it to friends and family. Hangouts works great with family and friends since it works on all devices without any issues. I would like to use Duo and Allo since it seems to be what Google wants to support and where they'd like to add new features, but I couldn't in good conscious recommend them to my parents. It would have simply complicated their (and my) communications platform. Glad this is finally happening.

  • Is this a case of Google responding to the needs of users or could it be that related parts of a revised voice and data messaging strategy have been slowly emerging before our eyes? While Google always responds to users needs users do not typically specify their needs in terms like, "we need this specific protocol implemented in this way and with these parameters". On the contrary users needs represent something more like a stress test of various technical courses of action that might conceivably be able to satisfy those needs. I am not sure why Google is undertaking suck a thoroughgoing revision of consumer messaging at this point but I am pretty sure it is not because users demanded it. Sometimes you need to be at the heart of things before it is possible to see where existing systems are letting users down and conceive better ways to achieve the objectives that are important to them.

    Modern IP routing that is the basis of the Internet and lies at the heart of most modern communications didn't come into existence as a result of a formal collection of user requirements. Similarly, no amount of talking about apps - the advantages of this one and the disadvantages of that one - will tell us why the critical networking protocols that underpin all global communications are coded as they are or structure and shuffle data as they do. Unless Google has the main lines of a future messaging strategy worked out and that strategy, moreover, is sound, there will be no happy day coming when everything we are witnessing suddenly makes sense. The purpose of that comment isn't to indicate doubt. The tech press may simply not be asking the right questions and looking in the wrong places for answers. Asking what messaging protocols will be basic to Google's revised messaging architecture would be a good place to start.

    • It isn't readily apparent whether Google has a sound overarching strategic plan for messaging applications or whether it is just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Given what they've seen, most people seem to assume the latter. From the user's standpoint, messaging is simple: communicate synchronously or asynchronously using whatever device I happen to be using, as long as I'm logged in to my personal Google account, and preferably using the same app with the option for text or A/V. And, a Web app should be the main version so that it is truly OS platform agnostic and always up to date.

      • Yes, that couldn't have been put better. But, behind what people see lies not the magic of apps but refined engineering, agreed data formats and (sometimes) successful capacity planning and resource provisioning. To make a system that successfully routes, streams and responds to billions of data transmissions/requests/transactions in the tiniest of intervals without ending in an awful traffic jam is not simple but, on the contrary, incredibly difficult. Companies like Cisco exist because that difficult feat needs to be achieved without the scale of the complexity of the task ever being apparent to users. And, things must work this way, with all of the complexity of such a system being veiled from its users, not because complexity offends our sensibilities, somehow, but rather, just as you suggest, because things must indeed be simple for users of the system. If the complexity of the messaging system was ever to get in the way of the objectives of users then that would count as a failure of the system itself.

        The simplicity of a messaging system is a feature sustained by complex engineering. Success doesn't come by "throwing stuff at the wall". If that is what Google is doing then they will fail abysmally. Even if they have a strategic plan (which makes more sense because Google has a reputation for being at the cutting edge of network design and engineering) they could still fail but it is always better to be in the game with a fighting chance.

    • Google's messaging strategy:

      "Whatsapp uses phone numbers, 'the kids' use whatsapp, we must use phone numbers, then we will be what 'the kids' use! Ooohhh, I also heard they like stickers, throw a bunch of those in there too! What, adults? Ppphhhhtttttt, they're old and not cool; forgot about them!"

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