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 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 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 Martonik

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