Google is attempting to push its Duo voice and video calling app with a clever new Android feature: the ability to ring contacts who dont have the app installed. First spotted by Android Police, this works only with fellow Android users; there are some other limitations that keep your entire contact list from being available to call, but its unclear exactly what those are just now. That could certainly help push Duo to more people – but well have to wait and see if folks care to use it. Most users of major messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger already have access to voice and video calling, so its hard to say whether theyll find any reason to try another tool for the job. Duo already comes preinstalled on certain brands of Android phones, including OnePlus. The new feature is made possible by a component in Google Play Services called App Preview Messaging that debuted in 2016, which the company previously used to allow users of its Allo messaging service to text their contacts through the app, even if the recipients didnt have it installed. In my brief test, I couldnt spot any of my contacts available to call without having the app installed (I could only invite them to install Duo via a text message); let us know if you get a chance to try it out.
But only fellow Android users, and not even all of them. Duo is Google's video calling app, and it looks like the tech giant wants to spread the word about it. According to Android Police, Duo users can now call people who don't have the app installed and who haven't registered with the service. It works like any other Duo communication, except that at the end of any call, recipients who don't have the app installed will then be prompted to install Duo. They also have the option to decline future Duo calls from that person. We've contacted Google for confirmation. It's a good move for accessibility -- and should encourage those who do have the app installed to use it more widely. Additionally, it will help expand the user base. Cody Toombs at Android Police notes, though, that he wasn't able to reach all of his contacts through Duo. It's unavailable for all non-Android phones (sorry iPhone users, you'll just have to install Duo first), but Toombs reports there are likely more criteria that play into who you can contact. However, it's unclear what they are. This is all thanks to the App Preview Messaging feature, which allows Android users to use supported messaging apps to contact people who don't have said app installed. Google's smart messaging app Allo has supported App Preview Messaging since its launch, but the design for recipients without the app installed was a bit clunky. Android Police notes that it's been refined, giving a better preview for what it would look like if the person installed Allo.