“The single greatest feature of human species is its ability to effectively communicate and creating the means of accomplishing the same.”
No one great said this till date, but should have. It’s a relevant quote, especially in today’s era. Amazingly even Google has finally jumped on the bandwagon with its offering – Google Allo. Allo; short for Hello, is an apparent social app created to chase and kill WhatsApp, even though it is not obvious yet. With quite a lot of players in the messaging space already, Allo has to play its cards right. A lot of excitement already surrounds this newest entrant. There’s an expectation related to it faring as well as the existing players.
Here’s what our team of technical (not so) experts found on trial analysis of different aspects of the debutante.
Design and Experience
The user interface looks extremely simple with minimalist design and an orgasmic amount of whitespace. The colour scheme overall complements and attracts attention to the chat messanger. However, there are no options to customize the interface according to our liking, which we are pretty used to doing, by now. For instance, chat background wallpapers, font customization etc is not available. While sharing images, the image occupies the entire screen and as a result the chat messages get obscured. This seems like a bad UX (user experience) for an application that is supposed to be a messaging app.
Suggestion: Instead, Allo could use small thumbnail versions of the shared images.
In a complete white background on the landing page (a.k.a homepage), there is a single prominent colour element which is a FAB (floating action button). FAB gives you the option to start group chats, a chat with one of your contacts, an incognito chat or feel grand around “Google Assistant”. Google Assistant is a very distasteful rip-off of iOS’s Siri. You cannot really call it a poor man’s Siri, but rather a blind one’s.
Considering Google Assistant is a significant part of Allo, it should have been a loooooot more accessible, strictly from a UX point of view. Maybe another FAB which is a trademark of Google’s Material Design.
Delta Analysis: Allo looks like a product of a half-hearted effort put in User Experience.
Features and Functionalities
Allo heavily banks on its A.I. functionality named as Google Assistant; which is available for now for a preview version. Google Assistant reads and understands the message exchanges in the app. Accordingly comes up with automated reply suggestions. Over time it learns your messaging pattern, keyword preferences and even picks up on the slang you use.
Machine learning is an extremely fascinating approach and with Google’s Allo it seems to take a new shape. The capabilities of Google Assistant commands an opportunity to breathe before being dismissed. Yes we get it, it fails to answer ‘Why did Kattappa kill Bahubali?’. Apart from automated replies, Google Assistant also claims to have the ability to resolve your queries. It can suggest restaurants, movies etc from within Allo. It takes care of basic tasks like setting up alarms, reminders etc which in fact are much better accessible directly instead of going through additional set of actions.
The chats are not end-to-end encrypted and Google stores the chats indefinitely so as to study the messaging patterns and improve the algorithms to provide a more personal experience to users. As a workaround, Allo provides an incognito mode which allows the chats to be encrypted. The chats can also be timed to be deleted after a chosen interval ranging from 5 seconds to 1 week. Obviously you don’t get the luxury of Google Assistant having being cutoff at the source.
Other than these, Allo currently supports voice messages, image and location sharing, doodling on the images and provides some cool stickers you can play around with for an entire day.
Some Good-To-Have Features
Entering the arena of messaging apps very late, Google had the luxury of exploring features already provided by other major names. Improving on them or at least provide the necessary features as they are. Instead, Allo squandered the opportunity by not including some features users have become habitual to. Some of the features missing are file/document sharing, audio, video and contact sharing. Allo is currently available only on Android and iOS platforms with no support for web or tablet versions of it.
Also it seems odd having Allo compete with Hangouts, both being Google’s offerings. An amalgam of hangouts’ calling capabilities and improved chat capabilities of Allo could prove to be a handful.
Having lost a fair bit of time in launching an app in messaging domain, Google seems to be playing the long haul of releasing a far from perfect app. Just marking their presence instead of spending more time perfecting the app and losing any standing ground, studying user behaviour and habit and drop a better messaging app. Google’s willingness to sacrifice a prime element of messaging service – security, in favour of betting on Google Assistant hints that they may have something else hidden up their sleeve. Allo feels like an unfinished and hastily built app. It’s un-researched and built around the Assistant rather than it being a feature.
However, Google search, Android OS, Google Chrome are testament of Google’s enormous ability of building standards. That is instead of holding flagship in products and dethroning standing giants. We will have to wait and see if the trend continues with Allo too.
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