Whether you're being forced to self-isolate and work from home, or you just want to stay in touch with friends and family, a good video chatting platform is essential. Apple's FaceTime is great but it doesn't work on Android, and Grandma isn't likely to understand or install a more enterprise-focused solution like Slack or Zoom. So what to do? Well, there is one really great video chat service that is both free and cross-platform, and that's Google Duo. I'll talk you through how to get Google Duo set up on your Android phone (so that you can then share this with your coworkers, friends, or grandparents).
Products used in this guide
- Dynamic Duo dialer: Samsung Galaxy S20 ($1,000 at Samsung)
- Your hearing buds: Samsung Galaxy Buds+ (From $145 at Amazon)
How to get started with Google Duo on Android
Before you get started, make sure you have a device that Duo works on. Duo works on Android, iOS, the web, and smart displays like the Nest Hub/Hub Max, Lenovo Smart Display, and JBL Link View. Calls are end-to-end encrypted for your privacy, and even special video effects are done locally on the device, and not handled by some random Google Server.
- If, for some reason, it isn't already installed on your Android phone, go to the Google Play store and download the Google Duo app.
- Grant Google Duo access to your contacts so that you can begin calling people.
- Confirm your phone number so that people can find you.
Type in the confirmation code that Google Duo sent you over SMS.
- Grant the app permission to take pictures and record audio and videos.
- You will be met with a welcome screen with the camera pointed at your shining face.
Duo will tell you how many of your current contacts you can reach through the app. To video chat with just one contact at a time, type their name in the search field, or scroll downwards to make a selection.
To video chat with a group, tap on the Create group button and select up to seven people to chat with simultaneously.
Once you have Google Duo set up on your Android phone, you can start tweaking the settings, exploring the features, and having some fun with your video chats. For example, once you have the app open, if you swipe down from the top of the screen within the app, you will see two little icons for Filters and Effects on the right side of the screen. Tapping on these buttons adds a bit of drama and creativity to your video chats, though you may want to practice a bit of restraint on those professional calls.
Another interesting feature that may be turned on by default is called Knock Knock. This shows a live video preview of you to whomever you're calling, so make sure you're not picking your nose or doing anything embarrassing while you wait for your friend or colleague to answer. You can disable this feature by tapping on the three-dot menu in the top right of the app, tapping on Settings, and then tapping on Call settings.
If you can't see a preview video when someone is calling you, it's because either they have Knock Knock disabled on their phone, or they aren't yet in your contacts list. On that note, there are other privacy settings that you can adjust, such as the ability to block contacts from calling you.
Our top equipment picks
If you're due for a new Android phone, we think one of the best out there right now is the Samsung Galaxy S20. It has all the latest specs, and Duo access is baked right into the phone dialer! If you want a little noise isolation and privacy for your video chats, also pick up a pair of the Galaxy Buds+ with their amazing sound and long battery life.
Samsung's latest flagship has it all
The Galaxy S20 is packed with impressive specs, such as a 120Hz display, upgraded cameras, and expandable storage across the board. It also features Google Duo video-calling built right into the dialer (phone) app.
New buds on the block+
Samsung improves its true wireless earbuds
Samsung didn't feel it needed to change too much about the Galaxy Buds from 2019 to 2020, and that's fine — they were already pretty good. This year, the Galaxy Buds+ have twice the battery life, improved sound, and more microphones.
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