I'll probably cajole my girlfriend into using it, because she's the only person I video chat with and Duo is easier than Skype. But Google prides itself on tackling big problems with big solutions with the potential for big scale.Duo is Google's attempt to make video calling happen. Video calling has been the next big thing in communication for two decades, and a staple of science fiction for far longer. Even now, when the tech is good enough and everyone carries Internet-connected cameras, it's hardly the first thing you think to do. How do you hold the phone far enough from your face to avoid looking terrifying yet close enough to avoid yelling to be heard? I used to play videogames during phone calls, and texting while watching TV is standard for anyone with a phone and a TV.Video conferencing is useful at work, and Skype and Face Time are great ways to keep up with far-off loved ones. But video chatting demands undivided attention, lest you appear rude.In that way, video calling feels old-school before it's ever even cool.Even if everyone decides to get down with video calling, Google needs to get tons of people to download the app if it is to become part of the world's messaging lexicon.
Google's clever back-end work lets you switch from Wi-Fi to cellular with just a brief stutter.It's as stable as any video chat I've used, even on crappy connections. If you've ever tried video chat, you know the pain of diagnosing connection problems, determining usernames, and figuring out how the app works. It's simple like phone calls, because Google imagines Duo as something like the evolution of phone calls.With Duo, all you do is call the person from the app. If you're on i OS, you get a push notification that someone's calling. On Android, Duo calls come through like phone calls, ringing loudly and taking over the screen.Place a new call and the app offers two options: re-dial one of your most recent calls, or start a new one.If you have a -style bff you call anytime without worrying about whether you're in bed, having sex, or on the toilet, it's perfect. You can look into the camera and almost convincingly fake eye contact, but then you don't see the other person—and if she's also looking into the camera, you might as well not have cameras on.