Duo remains one of Google's most minimal apps, so it feels like even small changes were carefully considered before earning a place in an update. The latest version of Duo is rolling out now with one such tweak that allows the on-screen controls to disappear when they're not in use. A teardown also reveals plans to make audio calls even more resilient on low-bandwidth connections and to add a couple of notifications that might give users more reasons to open the app more often.

What's New

Unofficial Changelog: (the stuff we found)

  • Auto-hiding video chat controls

Auto-hide controls during video chat

The key element in any video chat is obviously the video, and nothing gets in the way more than a busy interface that blocks most of your view. Okay, so Duo's interface was already very minimalistic, but that doesn't mean there aren't still a few things to take away.

2017-06-08 18.53.412017-06-08 18.52.36

The latest update does just that as the buttons to hang up, mute audio, and switch between front and rear cameras will now vanish shortly after a call begins. Just like most apps that have an overlay with buttons on top of video, tapping on the screen will briefly restore the controls. The little round window with a live view of yourself is the only part of the interface that doesn't auto-hide. Tapping it still swaps the primary view between your own camera and the remote feed.

Teardown

Disclaimer: Teardowns are based on evidence found inside of apks (Android's application package) and are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete information. It's possible that the guesses made here are totally and completely wrong. Even when predictions are correct, there is always a chance that plans could change or may be canceled entirely. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it's officially announced and released.

The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk.

Low-bandwidth audio mode

It was about two months ago when Duo gained audio-only calling, which was a good thing for people that don't want to video chat or simply don't have the bandwidth to maintain a decent video feed. However, it seems Google may be experimenting with lowering the bar for data throughput even further. A couple of new lines in the apk indicate that there's a mode in development that will switch into a low bandwidth mode that would presumably be optimized for really limited data environments.

<string name="pref_lowbitratemode_title">Low bandwidth audio mode</string>
<string name="pref_lowbitratemode_dlg">Enable low bandwidth (2G) audio mode</string>

Even though the setting described by the lines above is not marked as a testing mode or developer tool, that's probably how it's being used. After all, regular people probably shouldn't need to switch to this manually, it's just something that should happen automatically if bandwidth is bad enough that it becomes necessary.

Sometimes modes like this are also added just so developers can test to see what happens in special conditions, and they are never intended to become part of the feature set. I doubt that's the case here for the simple reason that those modes usually have descriptions like "simulate low bandwidth" or "test poor network conditions." Of course, we might never know the difference if Duo is intended to switch into low bandwidth mode transparently.

New notifications

This one is really simple, but it deserves a quick mention. There had previously been text for a setting that would enable notifications about "contacts and features" as new information came up. As far as I'm aware, the option and notifications it may have related to were never actually live.

the old line
<string name="pref_engagement_notifications_enabled_summary">Get updates on contacts and features.</string>

That line is now gone, but in its place is text for a pair of notifications that make a bit more sense. Users will soon have two options: One enables notifications for new features in Duo and the other will enable notifications when people in your contact list join Duo.

code

<string name="pref_new_features_notifications_enabled_summary">Get updates on brand new features</string>
<string name="pref_new_features_notifications_enabled_title">New in Duo</string>
<string name="pref_new_features_notifications_enabled_key">new_features_notifications_enabled_key</string>

<string name="pref_contacts_notifications_enabled_summary">Get alerts when your contacts join Duo</string>
<string name="pref_contacts_notifications_enabled_title">Contact updates</string>
<string name="pref_contacts_notifications_enabled_key">contacts_notifications_enabled_key</string>

Whether or not you're interested in a notification about new features will probably depend on how closely you follow Android Police and if you're reading a teardown about Duo. Admit it, if you're reading this now, you'll turn this on when it becomes available. Getting notifications about other people joining Duo is a bit different and probably depends heavily on how big your contact list is and if it's filled with people that would be super curious about trying video chat. Too many of either of these will surely lead to them being turned off... But I kinda doubt that's going to be the problem.

Download

The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.

Version: 12.0.157862282.DR12_RC17

Google Duo
Google Duo
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free