Google launches stripped-down video calling app Duo for dodgy networks

Internet giant Google has launched a new video calling app called Duo that has been deliberately stripped down to allow it to be used even on even low-quality mobile networks.

Video calling is the next best thing to actually meeting people, according to Google Principal Software Engineer Justin Uberti, but apparently half of us don’t bother, perhaps because we manage to get out of the house every now and then.

The clever bit is that Duo detects your network conditions and automatically adjusts the video quality according to what it decides the connection can handle. The announcement doesn’t explicitly say whether or not users can manually adjust video quality but that would certainly be handy for people looking to video call away from a wifi connection but are worried about the resulting data charges.

And talking of wifi, another bit of cleverness means it automatically switches from wifi to mobile broadband without dropping the call. Lastly there’s a feature called Knock Knock that allows you to see an incoming video call before choosing whether or not to accept it, as demonstrated in the GIF below, which does make you wonder what would have to be shown for a call to be declined.


Essentially this seems to be a direct competitor to Apple’s Face Time app (you can use it on iOS), with a degree of optimisation for developing markets, but it’s hard to see why such a thing took Google so long, especially since it was first announced in May. Google’s approach to product launches is pretty much opposite to Apple’s; it usually just chucks them out there with minimal marketing and fanfare and sees if they stick. If not they’re quietly taken out to the back of Googleplex and humanely disposed of a year or so later.

Google must be hoping the zillions of Android users in developing countries decide this is the answer to their previously unsated video calling needs, although at time of writing it still wasn’t available in the UK. Here’s a video showing what a great laugh video calling via Duo can be, in case that wasn’t obvious already.

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