Google Duo – The Apple Facetime Killer Cometh

In an attempt to recreate the magic of Facetime on Android, Google has just released a product called Duo, a video chat application exclusively for smartphones. According to sources that have already tested out the app, it is said to be simple to use and has basic functionality, but does the job. The best part? It’s available on iOS as well as Android.


Using the app involves a very simple registration process that automatically verifies your phone number. Once that’s done, you’re online and can video call anyone else on your contacts list that has the app installed and their number verified.

Why a Mobile-exclusive App?

The odd thing about the app is that it seems to be designed solely for smartphones. It doesn’t work on any other device, and Google has made a conscious choice in that regard. According to Nick Fox, Google’s VP for Communications:

“By being laser-focused on mobile, it enables us to just make sure that we were doing a great, wonderful job on that case. … For us, we thought ‘amazing on mobile, nothing on desktop’ was the better approach.”

But is Google really aware of the implications of having multiple apps to serve the same purpose? Hangouts on Android and iOS can do nearly everything that Google Duo can, but Google doesn’t seem to be worried about cannibalizing its own products.

Direct Competition for Facetime

According to Fox, Google doesn’t see this overlap of functionality to be confusing for users. Instead, they’re categorizing their apps by user type – Duo and the upcoming text chat app Allo for consumers, hangouts for enterprise-level companies and carrier-based services such as RCS and SMS.

The one feature that makes Duo stand out from Facetime is what Google calls “knock knock.” What this does is to display the caller’s video even before you answer the call, giving you the option of not picking up based on who’s calling. Another major benefit of this is that when you pick up, the video just keeps running into the call, leaving you with a glitch-free experience going into the call. No more starting your sentence three times because you aren’t sure if the other person heard you!


This significant feature is something that even Apple hasn’t come out with yet, and might be a major differentiator to user engagement.

In my opinion, Google has finally come out with a product that is laser-focused on mobile users. Most of their other products have a shotgun-like effect of being promoted to everyone, with the hope that something will “stick”. With Google Duo, the product is specifically aimed at the mobile community, as is the Allo text chat product that will be announced shortly.


The only problem is that Google hasn’t spoken about how a standalone product as simple of this will stand up to the competition. Will Duo be able to become bigger than Facetime? For that matter, can Duo and Allo hope to take on the billion-plus user base of WhatsApp, much of which is already on Android? Is Google hoping to draw Apple users away from Facetime so they can video chat with their less-than-fortunate Android buddies?

Only time will tell if Duo can really make a difference in the highly competitive video calling space.