Google Allo UK release date and news: Google begins rollout of AI chat app

Update: Google Allo now seems to be available on iOS, with the pre-register option still in place on the Google Play store.

Google Allo UK release date and news: Google begins rollout of AI chat app

Google has launched its new messaging app, Google Allo, for Android and iOS. The rollout started today, although it may take a day for it to make its way to the UK.  

Pitched as Google’s answer to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, Google Allo combines chatting with stickers and Snapchat-style photo scribbling. What sets it apart, however, is the app’s use of a powerful AI – dubbed Google Assistant.

The company explains that the integrated AI in this version of Allo is a “preview” of what’s to come, so expect its reach to expand in further iterations. For now, you can either chat to Google Assistant directly, or summon it by typing @google. Once you’ve got its attention, you can ask it search questions, get you to update calendar information, translate text, find businesses, look up the weather, and a bunch of other tasks.

But the AI goes further than Google Search. For every response it gives, it will suggest other questions. This makes the interaction feel more like a two-way conversation, and less like you’re barking search orders at a machine. So far this service is only available in English, with other languages to come soon.

We’ve got more information on Google Allo’s various features below. At the time of writing, the app hadn’t surfaced on either UK Google Play or the App Store, but Google has said it will be available worldwide over the next few days. We’ll update you with more information when it appears. 

Google Allo: Everything you need to know

You know what the world needs more of? Messaging apps. I’m kidding, of course. At the rate we’re going we’ll soon have more messaging apps than actual messages. Google Allo is the latest entry to the crowd, aiming to be an all-in-one communications hub for your digital chatting needs.

Why should you care? Well, Google Allo is supposed to boast some built-in machine learning – allowing the app to learn over time and suggest personalised responses to texts and photos. Spooky. It also has a virtual assistant, an encrypted Incognito Mode and loads of artist-created stickers. 

Google Allo: Release date

On 21 September, Google started its worldwide rollout of Google Allo. The company hasn’t given an exact indication of when its chat app would reach the UK, but this should be a day at most. If you have an Android phone, you can pre-register for the app on the Google Play store.

Google Allo: Key information

  • Google’s response to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
  • Machine learning helps Allo suggest responses to text and images.
  • Users will need to sign up with a phone number, and can link the app to their Google account.

Google Allo: Smart replies and Google Assistant

When Google Allo was announced at this year’s Google I/O conference, the main feature touted was its use of machine learning. As you talk to your friends, Allo will offer up responses based on what it’s learnt from your previous conversations. The idea is that, the more you use the app, the more Allo will be able to predict responses you may give to messages.

Where it gets really impressive/creepy is in the app’s ability to do the same thing for photographs. If your friend sends you a picture of, say, a plate of clam pasta, Allo will apparently be able to harness Google’s computer-vision capabilities to analyse the content of the image, and suggest responses accordingly. “Yum! Clams!” for example, or “I hope you enjoy your human sustenance, fellow person”.

Google Allo gif.gif

Depending on your outlook, this will be a useful way to speed up conversations, or an unsettling glimpse into Google’s ability to analyse images and mimic human reactions, heralding a world where AIs talk to each other endlessly about clam pasta.

Google Allo will also feature an in-built AI helper called Google Assistant. An update to Google Now that’s essentially pitched as the company’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Assistant will live inside the app, proactively offering information in the conversation window. If you’re talking to your friend about, say, clam pasta, Google Assistant may offer up suggestions of local Italian restaurants. You can tap the suggestions to bring up options to contact the restaurant, see reviews or find it on your map.

You’ll also be able to summon Google Assistant by typing “@google” into Allo, and then chat to it much like you would with Siri or Cortana.

Google Allo: Stickers and shouting

Like Facebook Messenger, Google Allo will let users send stickers. These will apparently be sourced from a variety of global artists and illustrators. Emojis will be present and correct, of course, and Allo also has a mode that lets users alter the size of their messages. Referred to as Whisper and Shout, holding down the Post button will bring up a bar that lets you change how big your words appear.

Allo also has an Ink mode, which lets users scrawl messages or pictures over photos. Nothing particularly groundbreaking there, although it shows that Google wants to offer a flexible, playful toolset for how you communicate using the app.


Google Allo: Encryption and security

Like Google Chrome, Google Allo comes with an Incognito mode. While in this mode, all your messages will have end-to-end encryption enabled with unique identity keys for each participant in the conversation. In this mode, notifications won’t show you previews of conversations, and messages will have an expiry time in the style of Snapchat.

Where this gets controversial is in Google’s decision to not enable end-to-end encryption by default. This has led to damning criticism from several public figures, including Edward Snowden. 

Outside of the app’s Incognito mode, all messages are stored on Google’s servers – seemingly indefinitely. That means all the interactions you have with Google Assistant will be stored by the company, potentially used at a later date for targetting advertising. It also means that all your conversations will be easily available to law enforcement with warrants, which isn’t the case with WhatsApp. 

“Free for download today: Google Mail, Google Maps, and Google Surveillance,” wrote Snowden today on Twitter. “That’s #Allo. Don’t use Allo.”

Google Allo: Working alongside Google Duo

Alongside Google Allo’s announcement at I/O was the reveal of Google Duo. If Allo is Google’s response to WhatsApp, Duo is the company’s reply to Apple’s FaceTime. You can read about Google Duo in full over here.

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