Allo is a smart messaging service that relies on the Google Assistant to serve up contextual suggestions. Assistant lives on as a chatbot within Allo, and you can invoke it to offer recommendations on nearby points of interest, tell jokes, play games, and much more. It'll also suggest contextual replies in conversations, provide you with score updates for your sports teams, along with weather and news updates, and so on.
Interactions with Google Assistant are designed to be conversational in nature, and it'll also tell the best bad jokes. If you're just getting started with Google's new messaging service, we have you covered.
Setting up Allo
Haven't gotten around to downloading Allo just yet? Here's the Play Store link. Once you're done downloading the app, it's a straightforward process to register using your phone number. We've covered the basics of getting started with the app below:
Allo and text messages
First off, Allo isn't a Hangouts replacement. You can't set the messaging service as the default SMS client on your phone. It does offer the ability to message a contact that doesn't have Allo installed through Play Services, but that's about it. You can also talk to contacts over SMS, with the message itself routed through Google's servers, but Allo isn't an SMS service by design. In this regard, it has more similarities to WhatsApp than iMessage.
Allo is mobile-first, which means that right now, there's no way to access it over the web. A desktop client is in the works, but there's no timeframe on when Google will release it. Allo requires your phone number to register, and you can only use it on one device at a time.
All the features of Allo
Allo is loaded with functionality that differentiates it from the slew of messaging services available today. First up is Google Assistant, which offers contextual information within chats, reply suggestions, emoji parties, and much more. Assistant is always running in the background, and is there to assist when needed. Sharing a picture of food? It'll ask if you want to take a look at restaurants nearby. Interested in going out? It'll offer a list of nearby attractions, events, and movies right there in the chat window.
The messaging service also offers an incognito mode for private chats, and you can choose from a variety of stickers for when words just aren't enough. You can also initiate Duo calls from within Allo, and make sticker packs based on your own caricature.
Traveling with Allo
Allo is tied to your main phone number, but you can switch your SIM card out while traveling and continue to use the service without any issues. As long as you don't active Allo on another device with the same number, you'll be able to access the service.
Should you use Allo?
Allo certainly has a lot to offer, but interest in the messaging service has plateaued over the last few months. The app has over 10 million installs, and Google is rolling out new features like personalized sticker packs based on your selfies, the ability to react to messages within a chat, and the option to sync history across devices.
Allo has matured into a more robust messaging platform following its debut, but so have its rivals. WhatsApp has added voice and video calls, and has picked up a slew of new sharing options over the course of the last year. Facebook Messenger has also picked up new features, with the platform also focusing on chatbots for everything from travel recommendations to news updates.
The lack of a desktop client is still Allo's main drawback, but with Google releasing new features at a steady cadence, the web-based client should arrive sooner rather than later.
Are you using Allo? Share your thoughts of the messaging service in the comments!
Updated in July 2017 with details on selfie stickers, Duo integration, and the imminent launch of a desktop client.