Google is trying its hand at messaging once again, this time in the form of Allo, a messaging app designed to bring Google’s new digital assistant, Google Assistant, to the forefront. Does it do that? Yes, but that’s about it.
Allo marks only the latest in a long line of Messaging apps from Google, and unfortunately you’re not going to be able to get rid of your messaging apps just yet — especially not your texting ones.
Design and user interface
Let’s start with the user interface — it looks great. The app is very well designed and clean, and set up in a very familiar way. If you’re used any other messaging apps ever, you should be able to use Google Allo. Simply tap on a name to start typing a message, and then hit send, the same way you would any other messaging app.
The interface is white with colored message bubbles, giving it a nice and clean look overall.
Say hello to…Assistant?
The real point behind Google Allo, however, is bringing Assistant to the front. No, Google’s new assistant doesn’t have a cool new name like Siri or Cortana — it’s just called Assistant.
Not only does Assistant pop up in your chats with others, but you can also chat directly with Assistant, asking it to give you information like news headlines, weather, and so on. It can also tap into your other Google services, asking it for things like unread emails. The way this is done works very well — simply type out a message the same way you would to anyone else, and Assistant will answer, the same way anyone else would.
Assistant is actually far more useful than it seems. Despite still being in beta, the assistant works well and delivers appropriate information without seeming like a service in beta.
If you were hoping that Allo would be the next all-in-one iMessage killer, you’re going to be disappointed. Allo isn’t really an SMS client, and you can’t really use it to send messages over your carriers network. Instead, it uses the web to send web-based messages, just like services like Facebook Messenger. If you do send a message to a phone number, it will be delivered, however it will be delivered in the form of an invitation to join Allo. That’s not an SMS — instead it’s simply a message routed through a Google-owned service number.
Despite the fact that Allo isn’t very useful if you don’t have other friends who use it, if you do it’s a great app. It has a ton of stickers and the ability to send doodles on images as well. Not only that, but it will be updated with more features as time goes on.
Unfortunately, you can only use Allo on one device at a time right now — even though it’s web-based. It’s linked to your phone number, and as such there’s no desktop client just yet.
Allo has a lot of potential, but it’s not there just yet. It lacks a few necessary features — such as SMS integration — that would really push it over the edge in usefulness. Assistant is also a great feature, and gives a glimpse into what Google Assistant will look like on Android when it finally rolls out.