If you’re looking for a quick way to send a message to a friend or family member from your phone or computer, you have an array of choices. Now Google has added one more. The search giant launched Allo. The new app, which is available for Android smartphones and iPhones, is an easy-to-use messaging program for users.
Dragging your finger up and down on the send button enlarges or shrinks your text. On Android (but not iPhone), you can doodle on pictures before you send them. If you want, you can tick a box in settings to save all the photos you send and receive in your camera roll. There are little sent / received checkboxes next to every message, and you can long press on any message to get the full details about who saw it and when. It’s all (or at least most of) the basic features you’d expect in a messaging app.
Allo’s standout feature is Google Assistant, which is basically a bot you can chat with that uses Google’s vast search database to answer several kinds of questions you throw. For example, you can type, “Food nearby?” and it will find popular Restaurants in your area (just make sure you have location turned on). You can ask it to translate phrases in different languages, show your latest emails, look up for movie ticket fares and other common queries. If there’s no one to chat with, you can play games on Allo too.
There is one innovation which probably everyone will like: The same smart replies that pop up with the Google Assistant also pop up in your regular chats. So when somebody texts you a question, you can just tap “yup” instead of typing it out. Or maybe “sure” or a thumbs-up emoji. Google keeps your chat logs on its servers until you delete them so that it can analyze them. It does that to make these smart replies better, and more likely to suggest the words or emojis you commonly use. It can even give you smart replies for pictures. If somebody sends you a picture of a baby, Allo will try to recognize the content of the image and give you an “awww” as a smart reply.
One more feature to mention: Incognito mode. If you start a chat in incognito, Allo encrypts it “end-to-end” and does not store the contents of the chat on its servers. When you receive an incognito message, it doesn’t show the contents either in the system notification or in Allo’s home screen. And each incognito chat has a setting for optional message expiration – messages disappear anywhere from five seconds to a week after they’ve been read.