Google officially launched its messaging app Allo today and India is one of the first countries where it has been made available to users. The app was originally announced at Google's developer conference, Google IO, in May, along with the video calling app, Duo. Duo was launched last month.
As with any other messaging app, Allo users can send messages, create groups, share pictures, locations, and stickers as well. (Yeah, I know, another sticker pack.) There are some other features, such as re-sizable text and incognito mode for private chats, but that's about it.
It is Google Assistant that gives Allo the edge. Google Assistant is meant to help you with everything. You can tap buttons or chat with it to find out about the weather, your scheduled meetings, flight information and a lot more. Naturally, it can perform searches for you too.
You can call for the Assistant while chatting with your friends on Allo by mentioning '@google' to search for something. That way, you can search for restaurants if you're planning to go out for dinner or check out movie timings without leaving the app. If you want to know just what Google Assistant can do, all you have to do is ask, "What can you do?" to bring up a list.
I downloaded Allo today just as it became available on the Play Store and I have been using it for a couple of hours. So, these are just my few initial impressions. First, it is fun to use. The interface is clean and using Google Assistant is enjoyable. It can tell you the weather, search for restaurants, tell jokes, and play emoji based chat games as well.
The search function is still far from adequate though. Don't expect it to give you accurate answers. When I asked for nearby breakfast places, it listed some restaurants which were far away. And, when I asked for cheap restaurants it listed some that are located in 3-4 star hotels. To Google's credit, you can quickly up-vote or down-vote an answer. The Assistant will ask you that what went wrong and you can answer in natural language.
There are some really fun things one can do. Such as, ask "Do you like Siri?" The Assistant will give you quirky answers. You can also play games with the Assistant, such as emoji movie guess, emoji party and more.
The app has a smart reply feature for messages as well, but as of now it is broken. A friend of mine sent me a message, "It is raining heavily here" and one smart reply option was, "Congrats". We expect Google to do a better job.
While there is a lot of excitement around the app, we will have to wait and see how it performs in the coming days. Watch out for a full HuffPost India review of the app in a couple of days.