Skip to main content

Allo can send you messages on Android even if you don't install it

Update: Google has announced that it's opening up App Preview Messaging, which is the Play Services feature powering these notifications, to third-party developers. Allo is a great use case for this feature, but the documentation makes it clear Google sees uses for it beyond growing Allo's user base.

Google has built a unique trick into its new messaging app, Allo, which may help spread its reach throughout the vast Android user base. Allo can send messages to your Android friends, even if they don't have the app installed.

It'll look a little something like this:

Allo notification

Be prepared for confused responses from your friends.

The notification lets you respond through text along (as opposed to stickers, photos or anything like that), or alternatively ignore it altogether. There's also a button taking you straight to the Play Store install page for Allo.

How can Google do this? The notification is generated by Google Play Services, which is installed on just about every Android phone, and updates silently in the background.

For that reason, there's a good chance your Allo contact list will contain a good few people who don't have the app installed yet. And so be prepared for confusion when messaging people for the first time. The feature does seem to be a bit flaky, though. Some people without Allo installed who are on our contact lists aren't getting these "introductory" messages through Play Services, while others are.

Note: If you're messaging a contact who's not on Android, you may see a "free SMS" option, which lets you text them without paying the usual charges (by routing the message through Google.) However, it's not entirely clear why some contacts get the "free SMS" option, and others simply an "invite" button.

It's certainly a powerful way to drive installs of a new app, and we're interested to see what third-party developers make of this feature in future.

Anyone receiving (or sending!) random Allo messages this morning? Getting confused replies back? Shout out in the comments!

Alex Dobie
Alex Dobie

Alex is global Executive Editor for Android Central, and is usually found in the UK. He has been blogging since before it was called that, and currently most of his time is spent leading video for AC, which involves pointing a camera at phones and speaking words at a microphone. He would just love to hear your thoughts at alex@androidcentral.com, or on the social things at @alexdobie.

68 Comments
  • This is the most interesting thing in this version of Allo, IMO.
  • Look at it this way guys, the app was just released in a very raw form and the Google team believed in the future of this app, and those similar to come, so much so that they want everyone to download it and try it out. Guarantee that as soon as it was released, they began searching for reviews because they want this app to be perfect. Also, everything created by anyone is improved upon in time based on feedback. As long as the hype continues for there to be sms integration, it will eventually be in the upcoming updates. I cant see it not happening this way. Perspective scenario: you put together an idea for a product that you think is the next step in product evolution. You've sent it through beta tests, focus groups, and even given presentations about it. So far the hype seems positive, yet this is from so few people. (Now for the question) would you want to spend an enormous amount of money on adding in a million features and defaults, and so called "standards for your product", all to finally release it and have everyone hate it? No, because now you have no profit and you wasted a ton of money. Why not spend enough money to get it running with all the hyped features, and then release it to the masses so you can find out if the rest of the world, outside you're loyal followers, enjoy the style enough to spread the word. Doesn't that seem logical? Figure out if people are even going to consider your product as a "new standard" before you make it the "new standard". It's simple, once you have a large enough client base asking for your product, you spend the rest of that money and perfect it.
  • Still says 'pre-order' in Europe! Will take a good look at it when it is really available! 22/09/2016 (correction: it says 'COMING SOON'
  • So they do have an ace in the sleeve to get users on board.... The will definitely need one.
  • Spamming contacts to install an app probably won't go over very well. But who knows? Google apparently employs very smart people. Maybe they can make it work better than Talk or Hangouts. I'll be passing on it.
  • They need to fix that annoying!! Messenger doesn't do it their other one.
  • This is so dumb, I predict a laughable adoption rate, followed by stagnation, followed by death.
  • Agree.. Now to be annoyed for a few days by folks that want me to try their cool new messaging app.... Why couldn't it work like the VZ app or iMessage where it just sends a normal text and no one is bothered lol
  • Because then no one would download the app, this way they can bug people who don't download the app. The issue being few people will download the app either way, this is about three years too late at this point if not more.
  • Until it gets a web client at the release of the new Pixel phones. Just a hope and prediction.
  • A desktop app would be better...
  • Message arrives on friends iPhone. Message is green. Message contains spam to download yet another app. Message is deleted. iMessage remains the choice. Nice concept Google but this isn't what we want.
  • Hangouts looks better to me...
  • Agreed. If for nothing but the web client alone
  • Agreed! I also miss the SMS/Hangouts integration (making it look like one conversation)
  • Agreed. Went back to Hangouts after about 5 minutes. Lol.
  • If Allo truly integrated SMS I would see adoption being better. However, I get they are trying to get all users to install the app. Not sure if this approach will work well for them or not.
  • I was hoping it would work more like iMessage.
  • Totally agree, it makes no sense why they would not integrate SMS seemlessly?!?!?!? It become a pain to use Allo when others are not, and after a week of being hassled I'll probably revert to the messenger. Google wants an imessage like app, but misses the most important aspect, smooth integration. Why not just replace messenger? Great software engineers with horrible marketing skills.
  • Give them a month and I bet SMS is fully integrated. Think back to how Hangouts was rolled out. If I remember correctly SMS wasn't integrated when it first came out. Then a few months later it was.
  • And that's part of why it will fail. It needs to be complete at release when the hype is there. In a month it will be just another hangouts.
  • What happens when an Android Allo user sends a message to a iPhone user who's not using the app?
  • Same thing basically except in the form of an SMS which they can respond to. It starts a new iMessage thread with a weird number, tested it out on my gfs iPhone. I just added that number to my contact info in her contacts app so Everytime I'm texting her from allo, it's as if she's just texting me regularly.
  • Thanks for the tip. Didn't notice anything like that here, but will look at my sigs iPhone when he gets back from the gym.
  • That's good to know. Thanks for the info
  • Is that weird number unique to you, or would anyone sending her an allo message come up as that number? Either way, having to add a new number to the contacts list that is only used for allo messages doesn't scream user friendliness.
  • http://www.androidpolice.com/2016/09/20/allo-weird-sms-explained-other-a...
  • I just sent an Allo message to my wife and she texted me back why didn't you just text me instead of sending it through Allo. I thought it would be seamless and would be just like a text message. Definitely needs improvement and I'd like the option to use it as the default SMS/MMS messenger.
  • On iOS it looks a lot like Spam messages you get from marketers but it's asking you to join allo if you want to respond. It even has a "STOP" code if you don't want any more of them.
  • I sent a message to my wife's iphone (no app) from my S7 and she didn't receive anything. I tried a second time and still nothing.
  • They should have done this with Hangouts and add phone number support (like Whatsapp) way long back. I think that now it's too late.
  • Works really great, even shows that they are responding. Love it. Wish the iOS people didn't need to have the app installed though. As of now, it doesn't work the same. It just sits there. Edit: it actually sends a text, just the delivered, read, and responding icons are deactivated. Not uninstalling Hangouts just yet. But this hasn't crashed once in 8 hours. Hangouts had crashed for times in the same time period. And six of those hours I was sleeping.
  • Still didnt get it on my phone..... waiting...
  • download it from apkmirror.com
  • What is confusing me is that I am sending a message to someone without wifi that doesn't live in the US and has no data and he can still receive it. How does that work? I hope it's not spending sms though that feature is usually blocked unless activated .. Other then that, I love this app!!
  • Probably just falls back to SMS (same as iPhone) if they can't find the person through Google Play Services. It will send via your data connection (and you will not be charged for SMS), then the SMS relay will send and SMS to your friend, who will be charged for SMS.
  • I'm not really seeing why I should coax people from normal SMS or FB messenger. Those are the primary two forms of communication I use now, which I can use those on any device and continuously sync'd, I use a GV number/hangouts for texting.
  • My Google voice number worked. Happy they implemented that because I was getting tired of using hangouts. The UI also looks more clean simple. And light years faster than hangouts.
  • Agreed. This is a much better SMS option than hangouts and is super fast. I know when my messages are delivered for starters.
  • But you can't send/receive text messages and/or voice calls from multiple devices - including a desktop. #FAIL
  • I liked that my Google Voice number worked also but then no desktop client or web client and I went back to Hangouts. Maybe after some feedback from users they will add these features.
  • Alex, can you guys figure out what the file size limits are (before compression is used) when sending photos and videos? From what I've seen in different places online, iMessage seems to be around 200 - 300 MB, and WhatsApp/Facebook Messenger seems to be around 10 - 25 MB. Hopefully Google got this right and it's comparable to iMessage's limits.
  • .. And.. I'll slap anyone in the head who sends me a text through an app that requires or asks me to install their app or sends from some weird relay message number.. Another pointless app *for me*.. I Don't need or want another service to text someone or message someone, that's why I stopped using Yahoo and AIM many years ago lol .. No Whats App, Tango, FB Messenger, Line, etc, etc, etc....
  • Sadly, that is what messaging has become (and it's terrible). Until all the carriers support/implement RCS by default (and play nice with each other), we will be stuck with this. Another solution, I guess, would be for iMessage to go cross platform, but I'm assuming that will never happen because Apple.
  • iMessage is the lead example of why these companies don't stick to a standard. Apple bucked the trend and now we are where we are.
  • the way it handles SMS. It's simply horrible. uninstalled - this I pure garbage forcing millions of people to switch over from services/ apps they are used to
    to this **** instead of providing an awesome fallback system like iMessage. GOOGLE WE DONT WANT ANYTHIGN ELSE but ******* iMessage for android - come on it is that simple
  • Allo hasn't crashed on me yet which makes it better than hangouts for me. every single #$#&ing time I tried to reply to a hangouts message, it always crashed on me. I know Allo isn't perfect yet but I won't use hangouts after today.
  • how do i link a Google Hangouts existing chat to Allo?
  • More and more redundancy ....i don't get the infatuation with imessage apple either all these apps are irrelevant and whatsapp lol ahhahaha never used it, never Kik, never InstaSham, and I only use facebook.com on my computer. They very intrusive too
  • I'm disappointed I was going to use Allo as my replacement app for text message but it looks like I can't.
  • I actually dont think its fair that Allo does this via google play. And it just plays into android fragmentation even more. Anyone who says that all versions of android run the same version of google play is just saying a false statement. Diferent versions of android have different kernels and different feature sets so its impossible. My wife who as a 3 year old Droid Maxx is stuck android 4.3. I am on a droid turbo stuck at 5.1, Her droid Maxx does not have a version of google play that allows this feature. My friend on a 6 year old Vz Galaxy Nexus that somehow still works and has android 5.1 installed on it, has this feature.
    This feature also adds fragmentation between the Android and Iphone versions. This is something hangouts did that I think made people not pick it up on iphone even if it is an iphone limitation to not allow SMS. I dont think that is a good idea.
  • So it's not fair that Google releases their app through their app store?
  • I have yet to find any real benefits of Duo and Allo over Hangouts. I have them both installed and am attempting to try them out but so far at least with Duo as Allo just came out, no one seems to be jumping on board.
  • Allo isn't crashing and that for me is good enough lol
  • My messages get to Android users but no iPhone users. I already don't like it and going back to what I'm used to. I waited all this time for nothing because this release sucks. WhatsApp and Textra here I come again.
  • Can't send text messages and also smart suggestions are not shown when I get pictures from someone.
    Even YouTube videos play in a separate youtube app.
    Google had to rectify many changes in order to make this the best messaging app...
  • Tricky.
  • I don't understand the need to come up with a new app for every new feature. Why can't they just have one app and keep updating it... frustrating :-/
  • "How can Google do this? The notification is generated by Google Play Services, which is installed on just about every Android phone, and updates silently in the background." Off topic but this has always pisssed me off! Nothing should update on MY device without my explicit consent (a lesson Microsoft learned the hard way yet Google gets a pass?)! So needless to say I was ecstatic to find this behavior stopped on my rooted Note 4 even though I didn't do anything specific to cause it.
  • I don't plan on installing this app and I'm sure none of my contacts will.
  • unless they disable the regular messaging app, this is not going to get me to install allo, and in fact will do the exact opposite, it will prevent me from EVER installing it
  • I wasn't interested in this in the first place, but any spam to install it will just make me despise it even more. Posted via my Moto X Pure Edition using the Android Central App
  • Without fully integrated SMS, this app is worthless. What a disappointment.
  • NO SMS integration = NOT interested!! YOU listening Google??
    We Want an iMessage alternative for Android!!!!!!!
  • I agree that's what I thought this app would be Google’s version of iMessage!!!!!! @Google hope you're taking notes on the feedback!
  • Look at it this way guys, the app was just released in a very raw form and the Google team believed in the future of this app, and those similar to come, so much so that they want everyone to download it and try it out. Guarantee that as soon as it was released, they began searching for reviews because they want this app to be perfect. Also, everything created by anyone is improved upon in time based on feedback. As long as the hype continues for there to be sms integration, it will eventually be in the upcoming updates. I cant see it not happening this way. Perspective scenario: you put together an idea for a product that you think is the next step in product evolution. You've sent it through beta tests, focus groups, and even given presentations about it. So far the hype seems positive, yet this is from so few people. (Now for the question) would you want to spend an enormous amount of money on adding in a million features and defaults, and so called "standards for your product", all to finally release it and have everyone hate it? No, because now you have no profit and you wasted a ton of money. Why not spend enough money to get it running with all the hyped features, and then release it to the masses so you can find out if the rest of the world, outside you're loyal followers, enjoy the style enough to spread the word. Doesn't that seem logical? Figure out if people are even going to consider your product as a "new standard" before you make it the "new standard". It's simple, once you have a large enough client base asking for your product, you spend the rest of that money and perfect it.
  • That was a nice news!
  • How does one block their number from this service*? *See spam