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Via Google.
Via Google.

Skype and FaceTime have a new competitor.

Google today launched Duo, its new 1-to-1 live video messaging app for iOS and Android.

Duo, developed by Google engineers at the company’s Seattle office, is focused on simplicity and comes without pretty much anything outside of person-to-person calling — there is no conferencing, no text messages, and no desktop platform.

All you need to sign up is a phone number, so users who don’t want to use a Google account can still use the service.

Google is touting the simplicity, but some reviewers call the app “dull”; others, like Dieter Bohn at The Verge, say the “effort is so single-minded I can’t decide if it’s timid or bold.”

One Duo feature not found on Skype or Facetime is the app’s ability to show you the caller’s face before picking up.

The feature, called Knock Knock, lets you see what kind of conversation you’re likely getting into. For example, you can easily see if your partner is just calling to chat, or if they’re trying to show a child’s first steps.

Google noted that Duo calls are end-to-end encrypted; call quality will adjust to changing network conditions; and calls can switch between WiFi and cellular data automatically.

Google also plans to unveil a similar messaging app, AI-powered Allo, later this summer. The company will continue to develop Hangouts, which hosts both text and video chats, as a separate service that works across mobile and desktop. However, Duo and Allo will likely be the focus for mobile conversations.

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