A weekend with Allo: When tech geeks unite!
I admit, I’m a bit of a fan of Google’s new messaging platform, Allo. I also admit, that I’m not really sure why. After all, it is the fourth messaging platform introduced by Google, and it has some limitations to it – most notably that it cannot be the default SMS handler for Android. But for a 1.0 product, Allo is a pretty strong choice for a messaging platform, and I have tried to incorporate it into my daily life as much as possible.
Google’s new messaging platform is built upon the idea that people need to communicate and that communication encompasses a lot of details that can be enhanced by the Google experience. Photos, locations, reviews all help people connect, not just virtually, but in person as well. Which is why, when some-time contributors Hayato Huseman and Ryan St. Andrie and I hit the road with New York in our sights, Allo seemed like a natural fit to coordinate our weekend plans.
I honestly wish the idea to switch to Allo had been mine, but alas, I am not that smart. But soon after the group conversation started, it became pretty evident that Allo was a nice solution. At first, we all just stayed in touch with ETAs and general chit chat. Even Adam Lein was able to stay in touch from his Lumia 1020. So overall, Allo turned out to be a great fit.
It needs to be said, that group communication is entirely possible via other means, and in terms of just a series of text messages, Allo brings little to the table. But as events get closer and plans start to form, Allo really did rise up to meet our demands. Google Assistant is pretty great when it comes to making plans. Everything from sharing a quick photo, to looking up/sharing an address, to letting folks know where you are – Allo can help coordinate all of that. Just a few examples.
How may I assist?
New York, as you may or may not be aware – is a fairly large place, and easy to wander in. There is a plethora of places to visit, eat, etc. So when you’re trying to coordinate with a group where you want to eat, you can suggest a place and Google Assistant will chime in and let everyone know where it is. We found ourselves at Chelsea Piers looking out over the water near sunset – gorgeous – and we were trying to coordinate with a late comer. Blam, shared location. Want to troll Hayato Huseman with a Blink 182 video? Blam, video provided.
Later, when deciding where to grab a bite, Google Assistant helped us get directions to the excellent Jeckyl and Hyde Restaurant on Christopher Street (seriously, go there. Great place). Naturally, tapping on those locations allowed you to bring up a map of the area, and get directions. It also was a quick and easy way to let folks know where you were in relation to that place.
Throughout the night, photos were shared back and forth along with general giddiness as happens when a certain quantity of Japanese beer is consumed. Allo’s voice message capability while driving was also quite helpful – though that happened before the aforementioned beer. Overall, Allo really stepped up to the plate to meet our needs. That being said, there are a few caveats that need mentioning.
Geeks R Us
First, this was a meetup of tech people – we all pretty much already had Allo installed – except Adam Lein, because Windows. So there was very little barrier to entry in that respect. Allo being such a new product, I think all or most of us were probably looking for a reason to use it in the first place. Who knows, this may not be the only site with an editorial written about this weekend on it. Allo certainly fit the bill for this audience. Your mileage will vary, naturally.
Plus, there were some things that Allo can’t do. Video calling for one (but we have Duo for that, of course). Then, there’s the single-device limitation which is quite the fail on Allo. Sure, most people won’t have more than one phone, but the lack of tablet/desktop app had to have been more than a little irksome to those who were at home in New York watching things come together and having to respond by phone.
But these aren’t really deal breakers, so much as they’re indicators that this is a 1.0 product. We put this app through its paces all weekend and Allo was almost always up to the task, which was really great to see. Google has a really solid foundation here and it just needs to flesh things out here or there and it can be a true iMessage rival.