Is There Room for Allo?

15 minutes with the app and the futility of starting all over

I just downloaded the Allo app, months after it was teased by Google, confusingly alongside another standalone video chat app Duo. As a longtime Google Chat, then Hangouts user it still baffles me why these new apps aren’t just updates to Hangouts or why it all isn’t part of the main messaging app for Android phones — but I know i’m not the first person to question this strategy.

Still, I find myself playing with the Google Assistant bot, asking it benign and nonsensical questions about Siri and Cortana, just to see how much prodding it would take break down it’s AI facade. I do this partially out of curiosity of the supposed “future of communication” being a chat bot but also because on day one I doubt that anyone I know has the Allo app and there’s no other way for me to test it out.

I’ve been down this road before since switching to Android. I’m not young enough to care all that much about a chat app — Hangouts works okay enough for this. To be honest, if iMessage was available for Android I would just use that for everything. Most of the people I know use iPhones and group texts in Android are an abomination. iMessage may be boring, but sometimes, just knowing that the people you’re talking to have the same app as you already is enough reason to use it.

Hangouts is the closest alternative to iMessage for Android. Most people have a Gmail account so whether or not they know it, they have the ability to use the service. But it’s not a true messaging app, not since they took out SMS, confusingly, forcing me to use another app for texts — stupidly.

After playing with the assistant, I texted my wife, the person I text with the most. Supposedly the app sends a link to download Allo when you send somebody an SMS message through it, so I do that and say “hey I want to try Allo instead of Hangouts for a while.”

I’ve done this before. We tried out Facebook’s chat too, but I so rarely use the social media that it didn’t last. I suspect Allo will be something like that because it’s just too isolated. There’s no desktop version, which is so crucial when I spend 8 hours a day sitting at a computer for work and its better than having my phone vibrate all day. Hangouts still makes too much sense.

The privacy features seem kind of cool, but i’m married at this point, there isn’t a whole lot getting sent that needs to disappear. And based on Reddit, it doesn’t seem like single people care all that much about being publicly exposed anymore. The Chat Bot future is funny to me. I remember AIM bots being essentially the same thing, except back then it was spam, not a feature. The conversations went something like:

Bot: Hey there, want to hang out?

Me: You’re obviously fake.

Bot: No, you’re funny. Let’s meet up, I live near by.

Me: Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moon light?

Bot: What? You’re Funny :).”

And Google’s Assistant is something like this:

Me: Are you Siri?

Google Bot: Oh Stop :). I’m your Google Assistant, How can I help you?

Me: Are you Cortana?

Google Bot: Full respect. Being an assistant isn’t easy.

Me: Is Incognito Mode basically for sending nudes?

Google Bot: I don’t understand.

Me: Come on bruh

Google Bot: My apologies… I don’t understand.

Me: Bruh

Google Bot: Hi Steven, how can I help?”

Stickers are just a generic thing. I’d rather have the standardized, iOS emojis. Allo, Duo, Hangouts — all part of a strange and incoherent messaging strategy. With tech innovating so slowly now, it seems like Apple and Google change things just to change them — and I try them just to try them.