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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Google Killing Duo, Rolling its Features into Meet

A photo of Google Duo

Duo will become Google Meet.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

I get annoyed by all the jokes people make about Google killing things willy-nilly. I think that’s because I’m so deep into the ecosystem that these kinds of changes usually directly affect me. Google’s latest assassination target is Duo, which is now being combined with Meet into one video-calling app. As much as it frustrates me, it’s another great example of why there are so many Killed By Google jokes.

Today, Google laid out the migration plan for Duo’s timely demise in a blog post detailing the update. The Duo app on Android and elsewhere will get Meet-like features in the coming weeks, including virtual backgrounds and the ability to coordinate and schedule a video meeting with several participants. Captions will also become available, and video calls will be able to expand to as many as 100 participants.

Google won’t officially convert Duo over to Meet until later this year. When it does, the experience on your Android device and Google Assistant-led smart displays shouldn’t be too different. Your conversation history, contacts, and messages will continue, and you won’t have to download a new app.

A preview of the new Google Meet will look like when it takes over Duo on Android.
Gif: Google

It used to be that Google Meet was reserved for the professional setting, as it was the app you could log on to from your computer or Chromebook, while Google Duo was meant for use in the mobile environment. Some of the benefits of Google’s Duo included group calling, fun effects, and the ability to leave video messages if the person on the other line couldn’t pick up. I often described Google Duo as Android’s version of Apple’s FaceTime, though I mostly used it to interface with my immediate family and no one else—that was the problem.

When I told my husband about Google’s upcoming changes to Duo, his immediate response was, “finally.” It made no sense for Google to have two different video chat apps between its platforms.

The company seems to have realized this, too. Javier Soltero, head of Google Workspace, told The Verge that “what’s been really important is understanding how people make the choice as to what tool they’re going to use, for what purpose, in what circumstance.” Google saw that folks operate based on their Google account or Gmail address. By consolidating the two video apps, all you need now is that address to contact, rather than anything else. It’s similar to the infrastructure behind Apple’s FaceTime.

Google Duo isn’t entirely going away—at least, not in spirit. The rest of its features will be rolled up into the new Meet, including the fun bits I mentioned earlier. It also reduces the reliance on third-party chat apps like WhatsApp to get a video call going. Even with Google Duo’s availability on iOS, it was hard to convince any iPhone or iPad-wielding friend or family member to download another app to call my Android device or Google smart display. Going forward, all we’ll need from one another is our respective Google accounts.

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