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Google’s new video calling app may lead you to ditch Skype

The app is currently available on Android and iOS globally in 78 languages. It uses your phone number to sign in unlike most video call apps.

business Updated: Aug 17, 2016 09:14 IST
Anirban Ghoshal
Google
The app is currently available on Android and iOS globally in 78 languages. It uses your phone number to sign in unlike most video call apps.(Google)

Duo, the one-to-one video calling app launched on Tuesday in India, is Google’s statement of intent in what is widely seen as the future of communication.

The app is currently available on Android and iOS globally in 78 languages. It uses your phone number to sign in unlike most video call apps.

“Duo seamlessly transitions between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, so you can start a call on one network and switch to another without dropping your call... even on slow networks (such as 2G),” Amit Fulay, product manager of Duo, told HT.

“While 31% of Indian adult users video call every day, 67% of them say poor connectivity or dropped calls frustrate them with video call,” said Justin Uberti, principal software engineer at Google.

The app comes with a knock feature that lets the receiver of the call see what the caller is doing at the other end. (Google)

Analysts are sceptical. “Less than 5% of the Indian internet user base, roughly around 300 million, connects via video calls every day. Duo might not make a huge impact in the market,” said Pavel Naiya, research analyst at Counterpoint Research. “For video calling to be a mainstream phenomenon, cellular networks have to better and more stable.”

“In fact, audio calls on WhatsApp consumes up to nearly 20 MB which is really high in terms of data, but the quality is poor,” Naiya said.

Skype and other video calling apps are in Google’s crosshairs. Just after Duo was announced, Google said its Hangouts will shift focus away from consumers and Duo will take its place.

Skype leads the video-calling space with roughly has 300 million users as of March 2016. “Skype has a huge consumer base and Duo will take time to catch up,” Naiya said. Facebook-owned WhatsApp is also working on video calls.

WhatsApp declined to comment on its India numbers. Skype did not respond.