Google’s new messaging app Allo

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If you are wondering why are most tech giants invested in some or the other mobile messaging apps, it is because people use their phones the most and for the longest intervals of time for messaging than any other activity. Not surprisingly then, all major internet giants like Apple, Facebook and Snapchat are trying to improve their messaging services by making them more convenient and engaging. At I/O this year in May, Google had announced Allo, its latest venture into the risky world of messaging. Finally, today, the app was made available for download across the world.

At first, Allo looks like the various other messaging apps that you would downloaded and subsequently deleted in the past. It has all the basic features and is comparable to Facebook messenger and iMessage that lets you share stickers in conversations, scribble on pictures and share media files with contacts from your phone. How then do you ask is Allo different from Google’s other forays in the messaging domain like Gtalk and Hangouts? The answer is Allo’s integration at various levels with Google’s artificial intelligence.  

The first thing that makes an impression about Allo is Google’s suggested replies. This is a feature analyses the incoming message and recommends to you options like ‘Okay,’ ‘Thanks’ or ‘Got it.’ All you need to do is tap on these suggestions once. This is possible to do from within the app as well as the notifications screen. It is estimated that the suggested options are limited right now since the app pulls these inputs from a default list of all subscribers. As and when more people start to use the app, this list of default options is only going to grow. This shows that Google’s Artificial Intelligence will get smarter and begins to predict phrases one is more likely to use while messaging which is a highly personalized task. This difference could mean the world to people who are more likely to respond with a ‘hahaha’ instead of a ‘LOL.’

Some are calling this move for Google’s AI to access your conversations and predict your responses, as creepy rather than convenient. Unless you are deeply concerned about your privacy, it should not matter for the sake of ease and speed it brings to your chats. If you must chat about confidential or sensitive matters, there are a plethora of other messaging apps for you, but not Allo.  In fact, contradictors are saying that suggested responses will make you more polite by giving you a quick standard reply ready to be sent when you are busy and would have otherwise not have gotten back to a message. The speed at which Allo makes this possible actually makes it rude for a person to not reply as there really are no excuses.

However, that’s not really as far as Google’s AI go. There is also something called ‘Google Assistant’ which essentially is your personal chat helper. It is designed to answer questions about anything that you can search on Google. Some are calling it Google’s version of Siri, Cortana or Alexa but the main difference is that unlike these helpers, you will have to chat with Google Assistant as there is no voice recognition functionality there yet. The Google Assistant can be summoned in any text message and the answers it provides will be shared for every participant of the chat to read. Imagine planning a get together with friends where Google Assistant answers your questions about restaurants, distances, weather, directions and anything else inside the chat itself. It is a lot like Google Now, but this is designed to enable informed chats that are already taking place in the app.

The Google Assistant is also dependent on more users signing up for its AI integration to get smarter by the day. As of now, it shows results as good as those by Google Now or Google Voice Search. The interface of these search results within the chat is also a lot like Google search result cards. Follow up questions like “What is the weather like in NYC today?” and then “what about day after tomorrow?” are also enabled. Reports conclude that these functionalities put Google Assistant much ahead of its counterparts like Siri and Alexa. Clearly, the potential for Google Assistant is huge. In its launch briefing, Google had suggested with time, as the AI gets a lot smarter, we can expect the Assistant to begin answering more complex questions. It is also designed in a way that with time and usage, it will begin predicting questions basis content of your chat on the app. It may look easy for anyone to imagine how Google Assistant can help facilitate better communication between two people or group of people by consolidating results from all Google services, but that may take some time.

In the future, if Google Assistant, will probably become indispensable as Google has already started to collect from its various offerings. Google Maps, Drive, Search, Calendar and so on might be able to collaborate at once with Google Assistant. This coupled suggested responses will definitely add a lot of convenience for users. Opponents however continue to raise alarm over Google AI spying on your personal data and files for these services to function to their best potential. The organization’s point remains to make planning and communication easier for its users. Spectators also say that Google as it is has control over all data created and exchanged through several of its services also available for the smartphones. With these additional features, users can expect this information sharing to be an enabler for communicating and planning efficiently.

Another critical feature of Allo is the Incognito Mode which is security oriented. This mode allows end to end encryption of messages and maintains tight security between users. This is an opt-in feature unlike other chat apps where this has now become a default. This mode utilizes Signal Protocol for encrypting messages and therefore comes neck to neck as far as security standards go in chat services like Signal or WhatsApp. This is the best industry standard for message encryption.

What do you like or dislike about Allo? Share with us in the comments section below.