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>
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.
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.