Allo updates are starting to roll out, but as the trend has been going, there's not much to see in the main interface for this update. However, tearing down the APK has turned up signs of good things to come. Support for using Google accounts to find contacts and start conversations is going to be pretty robust as hints suggest we'll be able to sign in multiple accounts. There's also a new camera effect listed, a little activity around the scene generation feature, and a hint that the behavior of bots may by changing.
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.
We've had good reason to expect Allo and Duo will be getting support for contacting people through their Google account rather than simply relying on phone numbers. The latest Allo update appears to build on that by adding a new preference that allows users to choose which of their accounts should be preferred when they start a new conversation.
<string name="default_sender_id_title">Default sender id</string>
<com.google.android.apps.fireball.ui.appsettings.DefaultSenderIdPreference android:persistent="false" android:layout="@layout/select_default_sender_id" android:title="@string/default_sender_id_title" android:key="@string/default_sender_id_pref_key" />
The setting is currently referred to as the "default sender id," but I would expect to see that change in the future. It would logically follow that this would make it easy for a person to have something like a personal Allo account and one used for business, and depending on how most of their conversations start, they will choose one that will be used for starting new conversations or join group chats. It also stands to reason that there will be a way to pick a different account when first starting a conversation, though there's not much tangible evidence of that yet.
<string name="signin_promo_title">Connect your Google Account to do more with Allo</string>
Camera effect: Breaking news
It's starting to feel like there won't be an Allo teardown without talking about camera effects. It's almost like we should be talking about Duo. Nevertheless, a new camera effect has been mentioned in text from the latest update. The new effect is called "shocked breaking news."
<string name="camera_shocked_breaking_news_effect_cancel_asset_download">Cancel asset download for shocked breaking news effect</string>
I can only assume this effect produces a big splash across the bottom with "BREAKING NEWS" in the center. There might also be accompanying details like a news ticker and other small animated elements common to emergency news broadcasts.
As a minor side-note, the icon for the Bollywood Zooms effect has changed again. It was first changed in v24, going from a typical zoom icon to something a bit like the ghostface mask from Scream, and now it's turning into three emoji faces smooshed together. I'm getting so confused by this icon.
Left: v25. Right: v26.
Silent bot use?
Long before it launched, one of the very first rumors we heard about Allo was that it was going to be built around chat bots. While it's still predominantly a messenger, the @google bot, which is basically Google Assistant, can be pretty useful. However, if you engage it from within a chat with other people, they'll all see the conversation, which can be a bit noisy in group chats. Judging by a new line of text, you may gain a little more control over what people see.
The text above simply suggests that we can share the results from Google Assistant in chat. Strictly speaking, there are a couple of ways to interpret this. It could either mean that you're starting a query with Assistant in its special dedicated chat thread, then optionally sharing the results to one of your other ongoing chats, or that you're simply asking Assistant for something silently in the current room and also get the option to make the conversation public. Since the phrasing of the text says 'in chat' as opposed to 'to a chat', I'm going to lean toward the latter.
It seems like a small thing, but I think there's some value in having more flexible access to the Assistant from within multiple chatrooms, which might give users the ability to watch a thread while also asking questions of Assistant.
Scene generation, continued
There's not much to this one, but there is a new line for the scene generation feature discussed in the v23 teardown. In short, users will be able to begin typing and get suggested images, or so it sounds – there really haven't been enough clues to make too many assertions about this feature. However, one new line was added in this update that at least looks interesting.
The line stands out simply because there seems to be a bit of ceremony to image suggestions. Most apps simply offer suggestions while you type, but in this case, image suggestions are "created" for you. It sounds almost like Allo is going to take starting images and merge them with others to, well, create a scene. Ok, maybe I'm reading too much into this, but there's not much else to say yet, so we'll just leave it at that.
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.