At Google’s annual I/O conference in California earlier this week, a new messaging app was unveiled. It’s called Google Allo, and it’ll be available on iOS and Android devices this summer.
When you get Allo (you can pre-register for it on Google Play at the moment) you’ll be asked to sign up with your phone number and link to your Google account. Then you’ll be ready to get to grips with Allo’s impressive features…
Allo’s new version of emojis are called ‘Expressions’, and it’s got a few interesting sounding features to make your messages stand out. For example, you can slide your finger up or down to enlarge or shrink your text - this gesture is called ‘WhisperShout’.
You can also send photos and doodle over them, just like you can on Snapchat.
Allo is powered by Google Assistant, a new chatbot and virtual assistant that promises to be an upgraded version of Google Now.
You can call it up by typing “@google”, then ask it questions and get things done without having to leave Allo. You’ll be able to book restaurants, check your calendar, get weather updates, use Google Maps or YouTube… anything and everything, really.
When you get a message from a friend, Allo will provide you some suggested replies (called ‘suggestion chips’) that work in a similar way to Smart Reply in Gmail. These suggestion chips are powered by an incredibly smart machine-learning engine, so prepare to be impressed.
If you get sent a photo of your friend’s graduation, for example, Google will easily recognise this momentous occasion and suggest replies like "Congratulations!" or "You look great!" The more you use your suggestions chips, the better your suggested responses become. And they can also include emojis and stickers.
If you’re after a bit of extra privacy, Allo has an incognito mode. When you enable it, your conversation is encrypted end-to-end and Google can't read it at all. If you delete an incognito conversation, it's gone forever. Plus, the contents of your incognito chats won’t show up on your lock screen notifications.
Going incognito means you won't be able to use Google Assistant, but if a higher level of privacy is your top priority, you might find it a useful feature.
Like we said earlier, you’ll be able to get Allo on your iOS or Android device this summer. We’ll do a full review when it launches.