What is Google Duo? UK release date, features and news

Google Duo is out in the UK on both iOS and Android, but what is it? If you’re familiar with Apple’s FaceTime you’ll have a rough idea of what Google offers with its new video call service – although there are a few key features that set it apart, from cross-platform use to pre-call video feeds. 

What is Google Duo? In a nutshell

  • Google’s answer to Apple’s FaceTime.
  • Emphasises simplicity and speed.
  • It ties to your phone number, like WhatsApp.

What is Google Duo? UK release date

Google Duo is available now in the UK. You can download it for iOS or Android.

What is Google Duo? Speed and simplicity

Google, like Apple before it with FaceTime, is trying to make video calling go mainstream, and is launching Google Duo on iOS and (of course) Android. It’s now out in the UK, so you can go ahead and download it if you’re so inclined.

Still, grappling video calls away from Skype and Apple is a tall order, so what’s Google’s strategy to achieve this? First, speed. The company acknowledges that one of the things that makes video calling a frustrating experience is when the connection gets choppy. Google says that Duo has been designed to sidestep this where possible, lowering the resolution automatically in response to network conditions, in the same way Netflix does. It uses WebRTC, and has been built using programming protocol, QUIC – Google’s low-latency Internet transportation protocol.

Google Duo is also happy switching from Wi-Fi to 4G, meaning you should be able to continue your conversations on the go. The company has also said it plans to let Duo support audio-only calls, arguably making it all-the-more appealing as a standard communications service. Calls also feature automatic end-to-end encryption, which goes some way to assuage security fears users may or may not have.


The second focus for Duo is simplicity. As the search giant wrote on its blog, the intention is to “take the complexity out of video calling”, and to achieve that they have taken a leaf out of WhatsApp’s book: there are no accounts – Duo ties to your phone number and works on your phone’s contact list, and calling one is as simple as tapping their name. 

That’s all it does: there are no bells and whistles here – no conference calling, and no funny Snapchat-style filters. The aim is to just get the basics right, and make them so simple that anyone can feel comfortable jumping straight in.

Something that ties into this sense of speed is “Knock Knock.” When you get a Duo call notification, your conversation partner’s video feed starts early, so even before you pick up, you can see them doing their thing, for lovely moments like this:


…although you can bet the majority of pre-screened calls will be less well choreographed than that. Still, nice to be able to screen your calls with a live face (definitely only faces), rather than just a number.

Of course, another bonus to Google Duo is its availably on different platforms. You can download it now and try yourself, for iOS and Android.

Google Duo: Working alongside Google Allo

Alongside Google Duo’s announcement at I/O 2016, the company also revealed its Google Allo messaging app. Whereas Duo is available in the UK, Allo has yet to surface. Until it does, you can read more about it over here

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