With just a couple of calls, Duo has proven to me that it can replace Skype on my phone and maybe even tempt me to use it instead of Whats App audio calls with certain friends.
Not because I to see them while I chat with them, but because the simplicity is there and it's enough to make me think twice before opening either app.
But my last few days with Duo have shown me another side to the story.
Duo isn't trying to revolutionize video calls, it just wants to approach them from a more modern perspective, one that builds on our smartphone-carrying habits, our needs for immediacy, and our disdain for complexity.
Compared to Facetime, Skype, Hangouts, and many other services, setup is faster and simpler, and usage afterward is more straightforward.
And yes phone numbers might be ripe for abuse and spam, but so are usernames and email addresses. I'd wager the reason is that Google wanted to do less, but do it better. Launch the app and you're greeted with your face from the front camera on your phone (we've already established it might not be sexy), a white bottom overlay with a button, and an overflow menu on the top right.
If you fail to answer, a missed call notification will appear on your phone and let you either call back or message (SMS) the person back.You can set the phone to vibrate or not when receiving a call, limit mobile data usage, unregister your phone number in case you're switching numbers or don't want to use Duo anymore, see and manage your blocked numbers, and activate one of Duo's unique features: Knock Knock.This basically shares the caller's video stream before the recipient answers the call, as a way to entice them to pick up the phone.Of the two communication apps that Google announced at I/O, Duo surely seemed like the less interesting one.Video calls have been done again and again, and by now, if you have someone you want to talk to and see at the same time, odds are you already have your preferred way of doing that.Part of what made Whats App so popular as a messaging client, and then again as a Vo IP alternative, was the low-entry barrier (plus free price and multiplatform support).