Google has a messaging problem. Despite its massive size and reach — a number of its services including Android and Gmail regularly capture a billion monthly users — Google has fallen off when it comes to the most popular trend in consumer tech: messaging apps.
And that’s where we say, “Hello,” to Allo, Google’s upcoming messaging app. Named after the French word for “hello,” Allo aims to compete with the Facebook Messengers, Whatsapps and WeChats of the world when it becomes available for download in the coming weeks.
It’s all about the eyeballs
But why would Google, one of the biggest companies on Earth, a brand that’s virtually synonymous with the internet itself, care about messaging apps? One word: engagement.
Smartphone users spend an average of 23 hours per week on messaging and social apps, according to John Jackson, research vice president for mobile and connected platforms at market research firm IDC.
“That level of engagement is off the charts and highly desirable,” Jackson said. “And right now it is the province of the Facebooks and Twitters and Snapchats and Instagrams of the world.”
Ultimately, apps like Allo are another way for companies to pull in more money through advertising dollars. The more Google is able to keep you engaged with its apps, the more it can learn about you. And for an advertising-driven business like Google, that kind of information is king.
And no matter how much your friend Bill in I.T. tells you he loves Google+, the service simply can’t compete with Facebook or Instagram. And while many people still use Google’s Hangouts app, it doesn’t quite have the same features or social cache’ that apps like Snapchat, Whatsapp and WeChat offer. But Allo, Google hopes, will.
Yes, that means Allo will include emojis and goofy features like the ability to increase or decrease the size of your text so you can make it seem like you’re shouting or whispering your message. The app will also allow you to send end-to-end encrypted messages — as long as you enter incognito mode, that is.
But if all of these features are already available through other apps, how will Allow help Google compete? By adding the one secret ingredient the tech giant has that its competitors don’t: Google.
Adding a dash of Google
See, like Facebook Messenger and WeChat, Google’s Allo will support bots, computer programs that “talk” to you like human beings. Think of bots as a kind of automated operator that picks up when you try to call your cable company. But instead of infuriating you, bots help you complete tasks that you’d normally need to leave your messaging app and open another window to accomplish.
Facebook’s Poncho bot, for example, will provide you with a weather update if you ask it, “What’s the weather like?”
Allo takes things a step further with its Google assistant. This built-in bot will automatically understand the context of your conversations and provide you with information directly from Google.
Say for example, you want to know the score of the Mets game. Simply ask the assistant in Allo and it will tell you the score. You can also access Google’s Search, Maps, YouTube and Translate apps through Allo.
Even more impressive, if you’re talking about going out to to an Italian restaurant for dinner with a friend, Allo’s Google assistant can look up Italian restaurants in your area and help you book a table.
All of this means, as Google explained in a blog post announcing the messaging app’s debut, Allo means users will, “no longer have to jump between apps to do things.” In other words, Allo users will remain engaged with Google’s product rather than opening competitors’ apps.
“The platforms are increasingly able to suck in all kinds of third-party services so you don’t have to leave the [message] stream,” Jackson explained. “So he or she who controls the stream controls quite a lot.”
Still, Allo will need to work well in order for it to see the kind of success of its competitors. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until Allo is available to find that out. Stay tuned.
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