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Google is adding Duo video calling to the dialer and SMS app of Pixel, Android One phones

Google Duo
Google Duo (Image credit: Android Central)

Remember Google Duo? That's the company's person-to-person mobile video calling solution, announced alongside Allo back at Google I/O 2016. Neither app has gained much traction in the open market, but Google's working on that with the announcement that Duo video calling will be built into the phone dialer, contacts app and Android Messages SMS app on Pixel, Nexus and Android One phones. Now right alongside options to message or call people, you'll see an option for a video call that'll be handled by Duo.

That is, of course, contingent on you and the person you're calling having the Duo app installed (opens in new tab) and configured. Many of the phones this will be enabled on will already have Duo pre-installed, but it's hardly a guarantee that people will have set up the app ahead of time — still a big mountain for Google to overcome.

This is a great way to do it — that unfortunately still requires people sign up for Duo.

Interestingly, this announcement isn't purely about Duo — Google has also included so-called ViLTE (or, video over LTE) support. So if you're calling on mobile data between two phones on carriers that support the ViLTE standard, the video will be carried over that rather than Duo. An odd addition, but one that will at least open up more video call possibilities that go through and improve the public's perception that they actually work. T-Mobile says (opens in new tab) it sends its native video calls over ViLTE already, as does SK Telecom in South Korea. ViLTE is definitely still in its early stages of expansion to operators worldwide.

Once Google can convince a significant number of people to get Duo installed and set up, this system of starting up video calls right where you already do your regular communications makes the most sense. Having to open up a separate app or do something different for a video call compared to an SMS or standard phone call doesn't make sense, particularly as video calling stands as a relatively niche feature.

And yes, this is a great place to point out that Google's messaging, calling and video calling strategy is still a relative minefield of different apps, services and distracting idiosyncrasies across platforms.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

53 Comments
  • I realize that I'm beating a dead horse but why couldn't they just update Hangouts? Honestly, Google just needs to dump Allo/Duo, rename Hangouts to GoogleTalk and add an SMS feature.
  • Hangouts did sms
  • I thought that Google did away with the SMS functionality in Hangouts a while ago? From my understanding it was only "supported" if you were using Google Voice and the SMS feature was pushed over to Messages... which became Android Messages.
  • No at one point (I'm not sure it is still like this) hangouts handled text messaging... It worked like every other texting app but if the person you were texting were also using Hangouts you would have to choose if you wanted to send a text or a Hangout message (they should've worked on making it default to Hangouts but never did). The Google voice integration came later so you wouldnt have to use 2 apps
  • For those on Google Voice/Project Fi, SMS is still a thing.
    But only for those two reasons.
  • Google Talk was awesome. Hangouts is the worst possible name ever
  • I don't even know anyone who actually calls it Hangouts in casual conversation. Everyone still called it Gchat.
  • I don't know anyone that actually used it regularly
  • lol
  • This ^^ lol Flicked via the BlackBerry keyboard on my Pixel
  • And Google can't go in the right direction until they start forcing other phones to have their apps as default apps or they become the leading Android phone... It doesn't matter what they do or accomplish on the pixel right now bc it's still just a small number of people with them
  • True statement
  • Exactly, and they could *maybe* get away with that in the US, but in the EU, where they've already been backhanded by regulators for anticompetitive bundling practices, there is no way they'd do that.
  • This is the real problem for Google messaging. If all Android phones had Google messaging as the default, they would not need to create 3 different apps. But for now, they must penetrate different markets with different apps. Allo is really geared at the emerging markets like India, where they don't need a Google account or SMS plan. All they need is a phone number.
  • And that is exactly why Allo is languishing here in the states. No sms no one wants it. Especially after the way they implement the invite with a text that sounds like a sales pitch from left field. I don't need no GD stickers and *****. I do need a proper answer to messaging to compete with imessage. That means sms integration is step one. Google seems to have tripped over that step again and again.
  • I just noticed this. A little late there Google
  • Allo and Duo are perfect except for one problem.
    Nobody uses them.
  • Another true statement. WhatsApp ate their lunch..
  • WhatsApp was already halfway through the entire buffet before Allo and Duo even showed up.
  • That's not true I know my Frends brothers cousins nephew Twice removed Uses allo to text himself.
  • I lol'd
  • i agree with allo but duo has been used widely used(maybe not like whats app). it already have more than 100 million install in android but not sure about ios. once in a while i get notification about my friends joining duo but not so much for allo
  • I think this is an attempt to fix that.
  • The vast majority of people I know use FaceBook messenger. And the video calling portion (amongst others) is terrible. If it was good, I'd use it. Now Duo works well. But they just need to have incorporated it into the default phone app from the start. Especially now that they are making this move on Nexus and Pixel devices. Flicked via the BlackBerry keyboard on my Pixel
  • Nice but if only others used Duo, Allo instead of WhatsApp.
  • "That is, of course, contingent on you and the person you're calling having the Duo app"....and there is the problem and it will never succeed.
  • They need to get their messaging and video calling mess straightened out... For Fi users it isn't so bad but all the proprietary app requirements will cause Allo and Duo to languish as they already are.
  • Integrate it into phone set up then?
  • Just make it the default for android. Otherwise no one video call app will ever become the norm. I know people don't like that solution, it without doing that, it will always be ten different apps fighting for a small market share and nothing will ever feel just "usable".
  • I love duo
  • So in other words, Google just added Android FaceTime?
  • It is available for Andorid and iOS
  • Yup, Duo is pretty much Android's answer to FaceTime. But what makes it better is that it works cross platform. You can use it on Android and IOS, unlike FaceTime which requires both people to have an apple product
  • Unfortunately it will never be what facetime is for Apple until google makes all OEM's add it to the dial app.
  • Nexus too
  • Yay, we weren't forgotten
  • DEVELOP👏🏾ONE👏🏾 MESSAGING 👏🏾APP👏🏾FOR👏🏾 ANDROID 👏🏾GOOGLE! What is so difficult about this? Or at least add regular texting to Allo so we can finally have an iMessage like experience on Android...
  • How does someone know when they are using SMS versus wifi data with iMessage?
  • Blue vs green bubbles. Only reason why they are two different colors is to have a pseudo sense of status level.
  • also the protocols iMessage supports also include sending much larger MMS files instead of the archaic 1mb limit on SMS, read and reply receipts etc. Google just has their heads up their asses when it comes to messaging like get with the program...
  • And I think now it also actually says on a per message basis what Service you are using in the empty txt field before typing each message. I'd have to look again. Wife has an iPhone for work or I wouldn't have a clue either. Flicked via the BlackBerry keyboard on my Pixel
  • This. No idea why this is so hard.
  • Dialer integrated Video call option is long overdue on Android. Jeez this is like a 2012 feature on other platforms. IOS, Windows Phone AND BlackBerry all had this feature
  • I hope all android OEM's do this, it would be a great addition to android. Also open up the apis so all messaging apps can add and handle these features.
  • Not bad, Duo is definitely better than Allo IMO.
  • OMG Google just implement it like apple into the dialer and get over it already. Should have been done years ago.
  • They should make it possible to install Duo (and possibly Allo) on tablets. I bought my parents a tablet and use Hangouts to video call and send messages. I fear that Google will one day remove video calling from Hangouts (or make it only accessible to Google for Work subscribers)
  • At least in regards to Allo, the problem is that keeps it off the tablet is that requires a phone number. It can't work solely on a Google account. Even the web interface actually connects to your phone and not the server to get messages. If your phone loses receptions, the web interface stops working too. Edit: I'm not familiar with Duo so I have no idea if a similar problem keeps Duo off tablets.
  • The only way Google will ever make Allo and Duo a success is to make them the default messaging and video apps on every single Android phone and have them baked in the way iMessage and Facetime are on iPhone. I know absolutely nobody who has either installed and I'm sure anybody I know who has are the same. However, every single person I know has WhatsApp. My mum who's in her late 60's and knows little about modern technology uses WhatsApp everyday and for all her calls, messages and video chat. My older brother who refuses to have social media accounts at all does have WhatsApp and its also his default communication app.
  • Hey Google, my dailer app Drupe has Duo built-in but I'm not into video chatting.
  • Meanwhile elsewhere, Allo rots.
  • They need to open Allo to Google Accounts sans phone number. Its odd that I can't use the web interface unless my phone is connected to the internet. It shouldn't rely on the phone number, but allow it to work simply by Google account.
  • Integrate into system apps pre-installed on every android phone and part of every android update... Sounds cruel but that's the only way. Android is so open it is it's only real enemy and competition. Google is going to have to start making these things a requirement and not a request. I just upgraded to the v30 but that FaceTime factor is real. Google got 12 messaging apps that no one uses... I have to beg people to duo