Google Allo - Intelligent Instant Messaging App Review

Communicating With Google Assistant's Artificial Intelligence

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Allo is Google's new flagship app for instant messaging and chat. When it launched in September, it reached five million downloads during the first week. Are you going to see Allo becoming the leading communication tool for mobile users as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger have been, or is it just a hype for some time, bound to wane out like so many of Google's communication tools have? You should definitely try it, but should you adopt it?

Allo is a simple messaging app just like the numerous others, and the only things that is expected to make it stand out is that it throws in some artificial intelligence with Google Assistant. 

A Departure From Google's Habits 

This app, along with Duo, its video calling app that came just weeks before it, seems like it has been developed and marketed by people strange to Google - it departs in many respects from the way Google has been operating and leaves the model that Google adapted when it succeeded. I am talking about the integration of many services into one identity and unification of communication and productivity tools. 

Being an app for mobile users only, it identifies you through you cellphone number, like WhatsApp, LINE, Viber and the others do. While this has worked for the others, it seems strange for Google, as it owns the very platform running the app - Android. Plus, it knows more than you think on you.

It could of course complement that identity with a phone number, but when you set up the app, it acts like it knows absolutely nothing about you. Well, this might at least be good news for those who fear about their identities being sold behind their backs. 

One would logically expect any new app from Google to plug in to the empire of a user base that Google has built over time and over its operating system platforms, browsers and web tools, but the two recent and much hyped apps, Duo and Allo, are complete departures from that paradigm.

If there is a working strategy behind, it is quite far from being evident. 

Google Hangouts, which was a solid and interesting communication app, did not get the push that it required from Google. Although Google says it will stay around and will focus more on corporate use, Allo and Duo are here to starve it further from vital support. Besides, Google already has a graveyard of apps that did not work or that were put to rest. In it you will find Talk, Wave, Meebo, Picasa, and so many others. 

Features of Google Allo 

What does Allo allow you to do? More or less what any instant messaging app does, with the exception of the intelligent assistant. It gives the following features: 

  • Use your cell phone number to identify yourself. 
  • Send and receive text messages to and from other Allo users
  • Communicate through text with other contacts in your phone's contact list even if they are not registered on Allo. In this mode, Allo send them whatever you type as an SMS for free. However, when they reply, they pay their usual rate for a text message. 
  • Smart reply. This is the selection of replies that the assistant proposes, which you can choose from as a reply, thus not having to type anything. 
  • Add amplitude to your text messages by increasing or decreasing the font size. Big text means shouting and small text whispering. 
  • Stickers. Some people love stickers. They will surely like Allo's, which are more innovative and rich. 
  • Group chat. 
  • Attach multimedia files and other documents with messages while sending. 
  • Add text or doodle on your pictures before sending them. 
  • Communicate in incognito mode for privacy. (see below)
  • Use the personal assistant. (see below) 

Allo's Intelligent Personal Assistant 

We can compare this with Siri and Cortana. It is an engine that learns from what you type and what you do on your device in  order to assist you in an intuitive way. It learns from the way you respond to messages and formulates several possible replies to your messages which you can choose from in order to make life easier for you.

This saves you from having to type much, or at all. 

The assistant does not help only in chat. It helps in nearly anything, including searching for restaurants that serve on particular food, searching for locations and sharing them, 'discussing' with the assistant,  etc. This tool is probably the only one that links you from the app to the Google ecosystem running on your smartphone. 

Allo's Privacy 

What happens to your messages when you send them online? They are stored on Google's servers until you delete them. If you value privacy to the extent of settling for nothing than apps with encryption, Allo may pose a problem. It does provide end-to-end encryption, but not by default, unlike WhatsApp, which opened the world's eyes on how encryption enforces privacy. 

Your messages are private and end-to-end encryption on Allo only if you communicate in incognito mode, which is not the default setting. In this mode, your can be deleted after some time set by you. Will you start a chat in incognito mode each time you want to talk to people? It would make more sense to have encryption enforced by default. But it is not. 

Cons of Allo 

This is where Allo falls short of a great app. 

  • The app does not provide voice chatting, like WhatsApp. 
  • The assistant does not always prove to be 'intelligent'. At times it can even be the contrary. 
  • The app is available only for Android and the iPhone. All other platforms are not supported. 
  • It is designed only for smartphones. It does even work well in a tablet PC. There is no version of the app that can run on computers, something which all other apps of the like have. 

Bottom Line 

Allo is just a text chat tool. The office assistant makes it stand out. This does not suffice to draw users away from WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Most features are fun-related, while most people need a serious and robust communication tool. Allo has deceived may but is also becoming very popular. It has Google behind. I installed in on my smartphone to try.