One of the few areas where Google can’t seem to get its ducks in a row is instant messaging. There currently appears to be an enormous mess among the trio of services Hangouts, Allo, and Duo, with users left wondering what role is being played by each. We’re going to try to shed some light on the subject by explaining the current situation of each app and what it does.

hangouts duo allo Google IM: What exactly is the deal with Hangouts, Allo, and Duo?

Google Hangouts

Like an ex-girlfriend who won’t go away despite Google’s efforts to ghost her because all Google’s friends still love her. Hangouts remains one of the best tools Google has come out with. At the moment you can use Hangouts to chat in real time with contacts from your Google account, send files, and make voice calls. Plus it can still technically be used on Android as your default SMS app, but given the misunderstandings generated by unifying text messages with IMs they decided to relegate this service to Android Messages, whose future also appears quite dark.

Google’s plan is to relegate Hangouts to the business world, but the truth is that at the moment that appears a very complicated task. In fact, they’re still trying to get rid of the properly antiquated Google Talk, having recently announced that they’ll no longer offer the service from June 26 onwards. What will definitively shut down on April 25 is the use of the external Hangouts API, meaning that third-party apps that use it will stop working. But Hangouts itself can still be used both on Android and from the web version with no problems.

hangouts screenshots Google IM: What exactly is the deal with Hangouts, Allo, and Duo?

Google Allo

An obvious failure due to the impossibility of changing deep-rooted communication habits among users – but still a failure that’s hard to digest considering that for a while now it’s been included as the default IM tool on devices of Android stock.

We’re talking here about the umpteenth IM app decorated with some flourishes to give it a “youthful” touch: stickers, line drawings, and such tried-and-true features as the option to change the font size to suggest you’re shouting or whispering. The only really attractive thing about it is its integration with Google Assistant.

google allo featured Google IM: What exactly is the deal with Hangouts, Allo, and Duo?

Google Duo

Allo’s sister app is in charge of video, allowing users to easily make video calls, though just yesterday a new feature rolled out to allow audio-only calls too.

Considering that WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger already let you make these kinds of calls, what is the point of separating chat and calling into two different apps? If it’s already a stretch for users to adopt one new chat app, why in the world would Google think it’s a good idea to make them use two? They may have been taking a stab at replicating iMessage and FaceTime, but it’s not like Android is a closed ecosystem like Apple’s is nor is it particularly fertile ground for copying the same formulas.

google duo screenshots Google IM: What exactly is the deal with Hangouts, Allo, and Duo?


  1. Wait, Hangouts and Allo can not communicate with each other? That would be how you transition and get people to move on so people never feel like they are loosing anything.
    Hangouts has been acting weird lately so I started looking at allo. But no one else I know uses it so what a waist of space on my phone allo has become.
    I like the intagration with an assitant, but I have 2 others of those (maybe more) with google now and some other thing that occasionally works.
    I also can not invite freinds to allo due to some Y!Mobile error…
    Guess Hangouts (till it ends), FB msg (with a stand along app I like), and LINE.


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