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Why is Google fumbling around with Allo and so many different messengers?!

Why is Google fumbling around with Allo and so many different messengers?!

Allo, Duo, Hangouts, Hangouts Chat, Hangouts Meet, Android Messages: all these messengers have a place in Google’s messenger strategy. But anyone who was hoping for some clarification following the release of the two new Hangouts apps may now safely give up: Google is fumbling in the dark. Two Google managers tried to provide some clarity on Google’s strategy via Twitter. Can this even be possible? Is there even one at all?

Google’s product manager, Brenden Mulligan, attempted to present Google’s messenger strategy in a graph, later adding that it is merely the strategy for multi-platform messengers. This addendum will be important.

It doesn’t look too difficult to understand: Chat and Meet are for the business sector, Allo and Duo rock the private sector. Is Hangouts being sidelined? For this, another Google manager has a clear opinion: Amit Fulay reiterates that current Hangouts users need not worry about their messenger.

And he adds:

The latter tweet certainly refers to the new business ambitions of Hangouts. At least, I can see opportunities for Hangouts with both of these new messengers. In the corporate environment, it ultimately boils down to a business decision, for example, using the Google Cloud service – the messengers are delivered and the two apps are quickly installed on the business phone. And if you don’t need the video chat app, don’t install it.

hangouts business messenger
Hangouts Meet: Google’s contribution to the team messenger market. / © Google

Specialization is the not the right direction for messengers

The separation into specialized apps may work in the business sector but there is a lack of persuasive arguments that this is also true in the private environment. WhatsApp, Skype, Wire, Signal or Viber support all the essential communication channels, and any user can be reached via text, voice or video without any additional measures. But this is not the case for Allo or Duo.

I just can’t imagine saying to friends or family: “Here’s a great messenger from Google – install Allo"... “Great features? Ermmm. Try the stickers!”... “For our video chat, quickly install Duo"... “Why not? Don't you want a totally basic video UI like on Duo?” … “Oh, yeah, you also have to re-register yourself to use Duo". Why would anyone put themselves through these all these obstacles when so many competitors have already integrated these features? It’s not like there’s a lack of smartphone messengers. How many newcomers is Google still trying to impress with the clever idea of specialization?

Sure, Duo is, in itself, a great app for video chats: minimalistic UI, high-quality video transmission, and the data stream is also data encrypted. But WhatsApp or others, in principle, offer the exact same thing – and chances are that such an app is already installed. Last week, I had briefly thought of suggesting to use Duo for a couple of private video chats. In the end, I gave up because I, myself, could not answer the question: why is Duo actually better than WhatsApp video calling? Do I really want to have to explain how to use Duo, if the question arises?

AndroidPIT google duo test 7985
Google Duo. / © AndroidPIT

For Allo, the Google Assistant should be a unique selling point. Now, the assistant is available for many Android smartphones, and since the first demonstration of group chats with AI support, I am still waiting for an instance where it would have been essential or, at the very least, useful. Sure, intelligent functions in a messenger app can offer added value but who says the competition will not follow suit? Also, who says that one year from now, Allo will still be the only messenger with comprehensive AI integration?

Google has no flair for smartphone messengers 

But Google has big plans. Someone is finally working on messaging products for the year 2020. Not for the year 2010. Allo has said goodbye to SMS integration, which, for whatever reason, seems to be an important feature for many.

A bold move, but there’s no prospect of success. It’s hard to imagine that Google’s competitors would completely sit out a successful AI trend. And which features will also still be important in the coming years: what are Google’s approaches to include Allo and Duo? And because Google is known to be patient with unsuccessful products, Fulay also has good news:

As a side note, the fate of Google Spaces was mentioned a few days before Allo and Duo were announced – it will be discontinued shortly.

One look at the Play Store charts reveals a lot: Allo and Duo have not attracted significant public interest. Both apps are not even among the top 300 apps. This is also true for Android Messages, the sixth messenger in this group - though personally, I actually like this SMS app, which is actually much more than just an SMS app.

Android Messages is an additional messenger

Android Messages is indeed the entry point for RCS (Rich Communications Suite), the SMS successor, which network operators have developed – with the goal of discouraging users from WhatsApp and other such apps. This is not known to have worked and each RCS-related announcement should be viewed with skepticism. The different industry leaders and network operators can’t even agree on a common path for RCS.

This seems to be the ongoing story with the Universal Profile from RCS. Nevertheless, network operators must actively support and enable RCS. The slogan on Google’s own info page says, “Android Messages – Better Carrier Messaging for Everyone.” No wonder behind the scenes Google is preparing Android for the radiant future of RCS. What's the fallback solution for Android Messages when RCS doesn’t work? Right answer: SMS.

Ultimately, for us Android users, it’s goes something like this: Google has a lot of messengers on offer that most of us just don’t use. To try to bring clarity to the messenger strategy with a small graph is, therefore, inappropriate - instead, Google should think of a powerful concept that’s actually a prize winner. The greatest feature should not just be a sticker.

Have you abandoned Allo and Duo? Or do you use both messengers? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Only two Google products are any good. Search and mail. All the rest suck. I'm discounting Android, which isn't a native Google product.

    •   24
      Deactivated Account Mar 24, 2017 Link to comment

      what about google maps? and the chromecast? google drive?

      • Reminds me of Monty Python's Life of Brian:
        "All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"

      • Brilliant, Tom :-)

  • steve Mar 23, 2017 Link to comment

    Until we get united we will always be divided.🎵🎶🎵🎶🎶🎵.

  • Hey everyone,
    What are your favorite messenger apps (Google or non-Google)?

    Deactivated Account

  • Ian Mar 23, 2017 Link to comment

    My theory is that Google doesn't give two shits about Android power users in the US when it comes to messaging strategy. It's not like we're going to switch to iOS any time soon. It's all about winning over the next billion smartphone users. These products are called "Allo" and "Duo" for a reason--those names resonate across a ton of different languages and cultures in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. These people are going to be on Android phones by default, but they will be up for grabs when it comes to a messaging platform which is very important. I personally think Google is going to fail because these products suck and nobody outside of this type of site thinks their brand is cool. And they had some "digital design strategist" making 300k/year + vegan dance theory classes tell them that fragmenting their messaging into separate apps was the fashionable thing to do because Facebook did it. Unfortunately those of us paying attention are left scrolling through Hangouts trying to find a separate SMS version of our latest conversations. Which sucks because Hangouts was all they needed and it used to be great.

    • Exactly! I think you nailed it.

    • Funny you should say this... after owning every single Nexus device Google has made, I just bought an iPhone 6s Plus yesterday. I'm not 100% thrilled about it, and there are already a few things I miss about Android (being able to backup separate photos based on folders/apps was nice), but after getting d*cked around for too many years with Google Voice, Hangouts, and now this Duo/Allo nonsense, I am tapping out. Hangouts really could have been the universal Google/Android messenger, but for some reason they threw in the towel. It's so sad/infuriating for me to watch all of this go down. WTF Google?!?!?!

      I realize my switching to iOS represents only 0.00000000007143% of the total Android user base, and will have no impact whatsoever on Google's messaging decisions, but I just can't do it anymore. I have absolutely no idea what direction Android is going with respect to messaging, and I want absolutely no part of it. :(

    • Those "digital design strategist" making 300k/year are really retards.

  • Hangouts with sms merging was great. Keep changing apps and loose credibility. Most of my friends are now using whatsapp simply bec it never changes and once installed it always works. AI is not required for messaging apps. Most people want chat,txt and video and many apps do just that all integrated. I stayed with hangouts but if I'm forced to use allo or duo I'll go to what'sapp. Keep installing\registering is a headache and most users will not do it. In messaging apps reliability and longevity is key to success and Google is failing in this area unfortunately

    • I prefer WhatsApp as a messaging app, and I'm not eager to try to make the switch to Allo or Duo. Hangouts was great, but I gave up on it since all my friends moved to WhatsApp.

  • X Ma1e Mar 23, 2017 Link to comment

    Just about every phone ever made uses SMS and for a lot of people, it's now free. That alone is the reason why SMS is still relevant today.

  • As I read the article, my thought was... "Why didn't they make Allo and Duo compatible with Hangouts?" If a user likes the richer features of Allo, they could have used that and still communicated with all of their Hangouts friends. There's no reason the backend server couldn't have been the same. Yeah, Allo and Duo use phone numbers to identify people where Hangouts uses a gmail account but there's simply ways to get around that issue.
    Switching topics...
    I just watched a demo of RCS from some guys in Spain. It looks really cool. It also looks like RCS is poised to hit the United States this year. It's much more than just a messaging client. I could see it becoming very popular.

  • As a sole proprietor my personal life is intertwined into my business and my home life. I don't need, nor do I want, separate communication for consumer and business.

  • ANNNND… .Google Voice (GrandCentral) just got another lease on life, and a upgrade (sic) that removes some of its niftiest features…more ingredients for the soup…

  • Providing all these fragmented Consumer messaging options is simply a nutty strategy by Google. Android desperately needs but cannot seem to provide a version of iMessage. It simply does it all, works amazingly well and does not rely on all carriers to play nice and roll out/support a new platform. Why not combine all these semi-functional Google solutions into one and fallback on SMS when going cross-platform if Apple won't cooperate?

    • B Russ Mar 22, 2017 Link to comment

      It was called Hangouts.

      • This. I still don't understand why they removed the merged SMS conversations option.

      • B Russ Mar 22, 2017 Link to comment

        Google Chat and Google Talk (looong time ago); Google Friend Connect; Google Buzz; iGoogle; Google Wave; Google Voice; Google Plus; Messenger; Hangouts; Allo and Duo; Hangouts Inc.; Voice II-ish... what re-re-re-re-re-invented wheels am I missing?

        WT actual F. And dead rocks in the same orbit:

        Google Inbox; Google Glass; Google Fiber; Google Labs; Self-Driving Car; Google Click-to-Call; Picasa; Piknic; Google On Tap; Google Notebook; Google Now Launcher (yes, they just announced abandoning it); Google Reader; Google Pack; Google Hotspot; Google Desktop; Google Apps (free / standard); Google Spaces; Project Ara; Google Code; QuickOffice; Google Map Maker -- I'm running out. Have to think for a few seconds...

        Meanwhile, what projects are consistent? Search; Youtube; Maps; Drive & Docs; Android (except every Google App that runs on it)...

        What... is that? It's weird, so weird.

        There is just no way to achieve dominance, especially in communication and social media, with that kind of whirlwind atomization, mind-changing and abandonment. Hangouts should just have been the further development of (a fully featured!) Voice, and remain today as a smooth Chrome and Android integrated Voice + iMessage platform that people want and could actually stick.

        And as far as all the short attention span development, they should have just kept labs going, a launching pad and a barrier between "experiments" and deployed products meant to stick around.

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