Google is launching yet another messaging app. But Allo is a lot more than just an updated version of Google Hangouts.
It’s a mobile app that combines some of the best features of WhatsApp, Snapchat, as well as integration with the Google Assistant and smart reply features that help you quickly respond to messages with just a tap.
Allo will be available this summer for Android and iOS.
Allo is tied to your phone number, like WhatsApp. That means you can add any contact that’s already in your phone’s contact list. You can use it to type out text messages, send emoji or stickers, or upload images. Like Snapchat, it also lets you decorate images with handwritten comments.
But there are a few key features that help make Allo more than just a clone of other messaging apps.
First up, there’s a pretty nifty whisper/shout feature that lets you make text bigger or smaller by moving your finger up or down a slider to emphasize a message without typing in all Caps.
Second, there’s a smart reply feature that uses machine learning to recommend appropriate responses. Someone asking if you’re available for dinner? Allo will present you with buttons that you can tap to confirm or decline the invitation when you may not have time to type out a full response. Over time, Allo gets a sense of your typical responses and changes the language to sound more like yours.
Smart replies can also be suggested based on images. Someone shares a baby photo, and Allo will give you a few suggested responses.
Third, Allo includes integration with the Google Assistant and Google Search. You can bring up results from a Google search without leaving the app and then add results to a conversation. Looking up a place to meet for drinks? Allo can let you do that without exiting the app, and then you can paste the business place card right into the chat.
Google is also focusing on security. All messages sent through Allo are encrypted, but there’s also an Incognito mode that offers end-to-end encryption and expiration times for messages. And when you close the Incognito window, everything from that window is removed from your device, just as it would be if you were using an Incognito window in the Chrome web browser.