Google Duo turns five years old today, and in that time, it's become one of the best video calling apps around despite fierce competition. So to celebrate its anniversary, let's take a look at what makes Duo so special.
It was a long road getting from there to here, with a lot of skepticism surrounding the launch of Duo and Allo. In fact, you'll find that most of the coverage from 2016 largely ignored Duo and focussed on the series of unfortunate events that plagued its sibling. But while the spotlight shone elsewhere, that gave Duo the opportunity it needed to mature.
One of Duo's biggest strengths is its extensive list of features that range from quirky to useful. The AR features might not be particularly helpful, but they are wildly entertaining and never fail to bring a smile to those on the call.
Screen sharing is, without a doubt, my favorite feature. Whenever I need to talk a family member through how to do something on their phone, this is often how I'll do it. It's a lot easier than sending them screenshots of where to go or what to do, and it's especially useful when I can't go and see them in person. It seems amazing to me that the likes of FaceTime are only now gaining this basic feature. There are plenty of other features packed into Duo, but those two are my favorites.
Left: Duo AR features, Right: Screen sharing
But perhaps the best thing Duo has to offer is its reliability. Before we got married my partner and I lived about four hours away from each other, and combined with everything that happened in 2020, Duo was our only way to see each other. Despite the poor internet connection at my partner's home, Duo never failed to connect our calls and then maintain that connection for hours at a time.
Duo can do this thanks to the way it'll cut video and go audio-only when a connection gets bad enough, as well as seamlessly switch between mobile data and Wi-Fi without dropping the call. We tried many alternatives to Duo over the last year, but nothing came anywhere close to Duo in reliability.
I'm not the only person who loves Duo, with the app sitting at over a billion installs and a 4.5-star rating after almost eight million reviews. Let's hope Google continues to develop and improve Duo over the next five years, rather than killing it off prematurely and replacing it with something worse. Google wouldn't do that, would it?