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Google's messaging app paradox

Google's messaging app paradox

Google has just released Duo, and soon it will be time for it to release its fourth messaging app, Allo. Eric Schmidt, Executive Chair of Alphabet, decided this wasn't complicated enough. He wants one messaging app to triumph and cannibalize the others. Is this a good plan or the creation of a delicious paradox?

Google has a rather frustrating/rewarding habit of acting like a puppy with insatiable curiosity. On the one hand, it means we get the best machine learning algorithms in the world put to use on our smartphones; on the other hand, it means we have four messaging apps dividing the user base and no reason to believe the number won't grow in the future.

AndroidPIT best messenger apps new hero
Platforms, platforms and a few more platforms. / © AndroidPIT

Eric Schmidt took to the stage for an interview at Startup Fest Europe, and he said that Google Allo is "better than anything else on the market" and asked that "before we sort of criticize it, why don't you use it?" Well, because no one has any idea when it's coming out. And if Google Allo really is the best messaging app ever, why wouldn't Google do away with Hangouts and Messenger?

Google seemed to have developed such a close bond with failure that it refuses to believe wholeheartedly in any of its new products, and the threat of abandonment lurks, constantly, over every new app. Why would I feel inclined to adopt Allo and buy into the idea that is the best thing on the market, when Google itself doesn't seem willing to do the same?

The position Eric Schmidt adopted in the interview, when asked by an audience member how Google keeps focused with such a wide array of messaging apps, was that "people have made this into a big deal: it's not." When large swathes of your user base are decrying a certain element of your ecosystem or product, it seems proud and stubborn to discount those concerns as pithy blather.

androidpit google hangouts hero 2
Google now talks about Hangouts as a business app while threatening to melt it down into Allo fuel. / © AndroidPIT

But this is not even my primary problem with what Schmidt had to say. He continued: "Assuming Allo does well, the others can be integrated into that effort over time...it's easy to integrate the others into the winning product."

The assumption that there will be a winning product is a big one. No other successful messaging app that I can think of has achieved its success in this way. Here's the paradox as I see it: Schmidt wants a winner to unify the system, but there can't be a winner until there is a unified system.

Schmidt also restated that Google's approach is one of experimentation. This is great, and means that things like augmented reality are making real progress, but how effective or beneficial is this approach when you're using it on consumer products intended for casual use by millions? Why build something as an experiment that is going to deepen user frustrations when it is abandoned or sidelined in favor of the next experiment a few years later?

Google would argue that it's always pushing forward and that this experimentation requires abandoning old products, but how long can users expect this to continue without anything being placed in their hands that Google deems worthy of pursuing for more than a couple of years?

Why are Allo and Duo even separate apps? Google says it because they've discovered that people like to use different apps for different things, but is this true? What if people are using different apps in this way is not because they want to but simply because different people they know happen to be on these different services?

I find the arguments for Duo and Allo flimsy, paradoxical and a little insulting. Do you agree, or do you think Google's style of experimentation is a beneficial thing for Android users?

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  • I love the idea of both of these apps. However, they should be just one app. Not 2. That is where I feel they should have gone and I can not for the life of me see how not combining them would be a problem. Perhaps, since other apps out there do offer some of these combined features - the 1 thing I from my own experience can say is that most do not handle all the features they offer well. Viber is great for messaging, pretty good in sharing location and info, fair in calls, not good in video calling. Line is better at video calling and pretty good at messaging (but slow), and pretty good in sharing info. Whatsapp is good at messaging, and pretty good at calling but no video call. FB messenger is not very good on video calls, only fair on audio calls but messaging very good. I could go on. But none of these has the Virtual Assistance Feature they are pushing in ALLO. I must admit - if it works nearly as good as they claim - for those of us who do admin work - it could be worth it - hopefully they will include a schedule sms feature. ALLO also would just use regular SMS which almost everyone has the ability and that helps as well. Since all these other apps - tend to have their own eco system (granted a few of them can handle SMS - which I for the most part do not use). However, like many of you - I am waiting impatiently and announcing this so early without the app even in beta for testing for users I don't think was a wise choice.

  • Oh dear what a stupid idea - who even needs another messaging app? I already have email which does fine for 99% of my messaging needs. The odd 1% is perfectly covered by Whatsapp. This is just another pathetic idea by Google to gather even more info on us! As if the idiotic Google + wasn't enough. I have no time for this ridiculous social nonsence Google just get on with what you do best - be a search engine!

  • My wife and my other friends with iPhone use iMessage to send message, sms, and Face Time. It's one app. So why does Google think that Android users want to rifle through 9238842023 apps to find THE BEST messaging, and THE BEST video messaging app? It's problems like this that are making Samsung look at their own eco system and ditching Android altogether.

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  • Eric Aug 23, 2016 Link to comment

    Allo looks like it will be an app we will all use having Google assistant and cards which will always be running and helping within the conversating and which will get even smarter the more it gets to know the user it will evolve the more you use Allo it is a way to get Google now and Google search integrated into our messages is a brilliant smart business move by Google we will be able to chat with Google in any msg even ask Google direct questions involve Google in our lives even more than we do now Google have so much data on us and this is a way to get even more personal and have a service that should be direct and give users a more personal touch.....also by separating these services into duo and allo apps this is more to give us a seamless experience a more faster experience and for the budget devices with hangouts we all need a Google account before using it loads of users hated this now it is phone number only because of the cross platform use the app is small in size and duo app even after using stays under 10mb in size duo will only ever be a video and voice call app simple smooth and really faster than hangouts for video calling we have a better experience

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  • Loffea Aug 23, 2016 Link to comment

    Good, look forward to it.

  • I think that Google was way too early announcing Allo to the world. Were they under pressure to do so? Waiting for months for an app to finally make an appearance after its announcement is rather annoying and people tend to lose interest.

  • simplicity is the key in apps 😁

  • >do you think Google's style of experimentation is a beneficial thing for Android users?

    I'll make an answer as a usual early-adopter : NO.
    Of course, it place higher the competition with other companies products. It counts on users experience feedback to develop and integrate new usages.
    But, for a professional usage, people need stability, reliability, make habits. So we are kind of disturbed by google products getting unpredictable on a long term usage.

  • Just release the damn app! I would have loved to be able to beta test it.

  • I am eager to test Allo. Trust and verify.

  • Something we could always use!

  • Google hans't been particularly successful with chat apps in the past. And even if Allo would become a hit, I'd stick to Threema due to privacy concerns in regard to Google apps.

  • Eric Schmidt is an Executive Chair at Alphabet, not CEO. His point is, and I think it's a good one, that it's just a messaging app. Chill. They have thousands of employees, comprising hundreds of teams to make any all of these apps work well for the consumer who chooses them. Hangouts will stay because it is the backbone of Google's internal video call network. Messenger is there because, well, it's the primary messaging app for Android. Allo isn't even out yet. So there. Pretty much makes the article/opinion worthless.

  • Larry Page is the CEO of Alphabet...

  • I like the concept of experimentation. One can think of Google as an experiment in experimentation :-) I personally find Duo useful as a separate app. Simply put, when I want to do a video call I hit the Duo icon instead of the telephone icon. There is a certain simplicity in wanting to do something and being able to select it with a single tap of a finger. I find apps that have too many options, and too many decision trees, before getting to what you want as ineffective. All of this will probably be made obsolete in time by AI and voice recognition.

  • I'm a Google fan. I think what they are doing with messaging apps is clever. Instead of doing a beta with one app, they are launching full fledged messaging apps. They are seeing what people use most out of each app and taking notes, and I think that part of their strategy is to continue to support the apps with high usage, while integrating what's most commonly used out of those apps (both high and low usage) into their newest solution, enter Allo. When reading Eric's quotes in this article, I hear him saying that Google is not in a hurry to get it right, but they are working on it. They are building a forest, right now it just looks like a bunch of trees, but you need trees before you can have a forest. I don't think it's a paradox, I think it's social Darwinism. Maybe Allo is just another tree, but I'm hoping it becomes the forest.

    • I am not gonna use the app most of people use as beta test to see how well it works, just because it's popular.
      See what happen to clean master. I loved this app under Android 4.4.2. Now it has evolved as real mess ! All bullshit !

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