This is Google Allo. Allo is a fancy, new Google messaging application that features artificial intelligence and machine learning to basically cater information directly to you based off what is being said in your various chats. The app was teased at Google I/O earlier this year and now it has officially launched in iOS and Android. You will see me switch between the two versions in this video. Google also wants you to know that Allo is still a preview and is constantly being improved and updated.
So when you first boot up the app, you’ll be greeted with a screen that says “To get going, give Allo access”. Allo needs access to your contacts and device storage and it will need an SMS verification code. When you tap on next, you’ll see permissions pop up for the device storage in your contacts. Then you’re asked to verify your number. First you choose your country, then of course you enter your mobile number. And once you enter that information and press next, you’ll need to allow Allo to take pictures and record video. Notice how Allo in “Allow” is bold? Good one, Google! You are then asked to snap a selfie for your profile, which will be visible to anyone who has your phone number in Allo; or who you message from the app. Now you can enter your name.
The first thing I noticed, after proceeding to the next step, was the notification. You’ll see a notification from Google Assistant that says “Hi Beau HD! I’m your Google Assistant. I can help you find what you need and get things done. I may use your device location to answer your questions here, and in your chats with friends.” When you tap on “Ok, go on”, the Assistant will continue to ask for your permission to grant the app access to your location.
The Assistant will then give you a full list of stuff that you can do. We have, from left to right, My Assistant, Action, Weather, Translation, Answers, News, Sports, Fun, Travel, Games, and Going Out. You tap on one specific topic and the assistant will help you with said topic. What’s interesting is that the Assistant appears to be actually thinking of what to say. You don’t really get immediate response as you normally would when you ask for help from related questions from a “virtual assistant.”
But in terms of the actual chat experience, you have some relatively unique features. You can add emoji and use the mic icon to send commands to the Assistant. The emoji and text that you can send can be resized so you can make words bigger, make emojis bigger or smaller. There’s even an option to send photos, which is nothing new. But you can draw on the photos that you send and your friends will see what you have drawn. Also, Google has worked with a bunch of independent artists to create stickers that can be placed in your chat. They’re all very unique because they’re from independent artists and you can download them, some of which are animated. You will notice that next to your messages are little checkmarks. White means sent, green means received, and green with a double check box means it has been read.
If you go to the main home screen of the app where all of your messaging threads are located, you can tap on the messenger icon and start a group chat, start an incognito chat, start a chat with the Google Assistant or contact your friends. The incognito chat is actually pretty neat as it will activate end-to-end encryption so all of your messages should (in theory) remain very safe and secure. In addition, it will send you discrete notifications and the messages being sent via this chat will have an expiration date that you can set. So once they expire, they’re gone forever. But I think it’s important to note that the app will store all non-incognito messages by default so if you’re worried about privacy, you’ll want to use the incognito mode, maybe change your settings or just simply find a different messaging application. With that all said, I do like the ability to search through my messages on the homepage. That’s very handy.
The Smart Reply feature is pretty neat as it will automatically suggest things to say, depending on what is being said. But it’s still a little bit buggy. The AI assistant is a little bit buggy. It doesn’t work consistently across the board. I would say it’s probably the best messenger AI out there but it still needs some work. Remember guys, we’re at the very early stages of artificial intelligence. I do have a feeling that over time, it will get better as advertised. The more it gets to know my preferences, the better it can deliver information to me.
I would also like to see Google rely less on phone numbers and more on email or other internet-based accounts. The app is really useful if you and your friends use it. So if majority of your friends aren’t using Allo, there’s really no reason for you to be using Allo either. Also on both iOS and Android, you cannot make Allo the default messaging application. But this is Google Allo, another messaging application that aims to win you over and ultimately make you make it your default messaging application. There are a lot of messaging applications out on the market—Hangouts, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Slack, We Chat, WhatsApp or Telegram; just to name a few.
Does Allo best all these apps? The clear answer is no but it’s going to depend on you and your friends. In my opinion, you’re going to want to use the messaging application that all of your friends are using.