Allo: First Impressions
I was all excited a few months ago when I first found out about Allo. It looked like the messaging app I was finally waiting for. I have a few issues with messaging apps, sms would be fine if mms was free and file sharing and group chat was a thing. But that’s not the case so that’s out, Facebook messenger does most of what I want it to but there are still plenty of people that don’t use it because you have to give them your mobile number or have a Facebook account, neither of which is appealing. What’s App is totally unsuitable also, I hate the idea that you are visible to everyone who has your number. While these people could also text you, an mms won’t automatically download and save to my contacts and then be uploaded automatically to Dropbox like all my other photos. It’s like a virus to me so no chance and then when FB bought them I knew the privacy issues weren’t far behind.
So as a solution to these I’ve forced all my closest friends a few times now to all sign up to a messaging service of my choosing so we can all chat in groups or not, send pictures and other attachments.
ICQ was the first of these I tried until my phone died on holiday, I logged in to Gmail on my husband’s phone so that I could let a couple of people know I was unexpectedly unreachable and then all of a sudden he had my ICQ on his phone as well as his, it had my name etc but wasn’t my normal account. It then created a third account when I fixed my phone back in the UK. The main problem with this is that people at the other end seemed to randomly have any one of these three accounts stored as me in their contacts, messages were getting lost and when I deleted two of the accounts all it did was stop me from logging in. My friends were still sending messages to the wrong accounts and it wasn’t even bouncing them back. So that was the death of ICQ for me. It’s a shame because it’s probably still my favourite.
I tried Dasher next. It was lovely but still quite a new project. I ended up chatting with the developers about all the bugs I found. In the end it was too unreliable to use, I loved some of the features but messages kept going missing and they couldn’t figure it out.
Next was BBM which I’m still using. It definitely seems secure and sensible and not like they’re about to sell all your data. It’s been pretty reliable but the downsides are that you can’t log in with your account on a PC or other device such as a tablet at the same time. It also advertises at you a fair bit and I’m not about to pay to remove ads if all the features I want aren’t there. BBM has been my go to messaging app throughout wedding planning and the bridesmaids group chat was always reliable. It’s hard though to persuade people to use it so when I first heard about Allo I thought it could be the answer, I figured almost everyone has a Google account, it looked like it would have all the same features as Facebook messenger, everyone would be on it and it wouldn’t be evil.
Upon signing up this morning I have 6 contacts. The rest of my contacts are listed there with an option to invite them. I wondered if the 6 contacts are those who had also signed up. Not so, it looked pretty unlikely (because of the individuals listed) but I sent a message to one of them, she hadn’t signed up. So no idea what that’s about. I tried inviting some people, I got the floating marshmallow error message “failed” as I tried each one. Seemed odd. And also crap. I also kind of expected that my one friend who actually uses Google hangouts would be available on there. Nope, and failed when I tried to invite him too.
Finally, I tried playing about with the assistant. I thought I might even use that feature even if I couldn’t use it as a messaging service. No, it is awful. I asked it what was on my calendar, it showed 3 things up until January. Believe me there’s far more than that in my calendar, which is on a Gmail account and also listed as an agenda on a widget on my home screen. Very poor results from that. I asked about my agenda for tomorrow, apparently I don’t have anything on, my actual calendar shows Quentin’s birthday party as well as various other reminders. I asked it to show my emails, it managed that but I use four email accounts, all signed in on my phone, all are Gmail or use Gmail servers. I asked if you could have multiple accounts. Rather than replying in the context of the app it returned a Google search about iPhones!
So in summary, nothing I would use actually works. The assistant is very poor and another example of software that just hasn’t been tested with any real life scenarios. You’d think they could handle my shit seeing as it’s all already in Google accounts and my calendar and email set up already works very well for me. All it had to do was read it and it failed.