What is Google Duo and how does it work?
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(Pocket-lint) – Google Duo is a video and audio calling app created by Google, similar to Apple’s FaceTime, Facebook’s WhatsApp or Messenger, and Microsoft’s Skype. Duo is free to use and works on iOS and Android devices, unlike Apple’s FaceTime.
Duo relies on your phone number, lets you reach people in your phone’s contact list, offers end-to-end encryption, and has nifty features like Knock Knock, which lets you see video in directly from your interlocutor before answering.
It’s also easy to use as the app’s interface is ridiculously simple. Here’s how Duo works, how to get started, and whether it’s safe to use it.
When does Google Duo become Google Meet?
At the beginning of June 2022, Google announced that it was going to merge Duo and Google Meet. These two video calling apps were a strange competition to each other and it makes sense to bring them together under one roof.
All of Duo’s features should remain the same, and the same goes for Meet, but they’ll both be rolled into one app. However, Meet will remain, as a name, and you will soon no longer see Duo on your phone at all.
Google didn’t give a specific date for this change, but it should come in the “coming weeks”, according to its blog post on the subject.
How does Google Duo work?
- Download the Google Duo app for your iOS or Android device.
- Choose whether Duo can send you notifications and access your microphone and camera.
- Check your number
- Enter the one-time verification code sent by SMS.
- The main interface of the application then appears
Google Duo’s main interface is a split screen, with the top half showing you what your camera sees, and the bottom half showing you your groups or contacts. There’s also a search bar at the top and a menu to access settings.
Every time you open Duo, you see the camera view with the search bar, and contacts and groups below.
To make a video call, enter the name of the contact you want to call in the search bar, select their name from the list and tap the “Video call” icon in the center of the screen.
The first time you call, Google will say “Smile! Knock Knock is on,” along with a notification that your friend – if they have you as a contact – will see you pop up on their phone while you ring. So when you video call a friend, you see a screen that notifies you that your video is visible, then you see the name or number of the person you’re video calling and an end button, all overlaid on a view of what your camera sees (probably you).
When a friend video calls you and you use your phone, an incoming video call screen appears, with a view of what their camera sees, your friend’s name or number, and buttons to answer or end the video call. If you’re not using your phone, you might just get a notification that a video call is in progress, but that depends on your notification preferences.
When you answer a video call, or if your friend answers your call, the video call screen appears, with a view of what their camera sees and four buttons. These buttons include a mute button, a button to switch between front and rear cameras, a low-light mode button, and an end call button. There’s also a thumbnail of your camera view (which you can tap to expand it and shrink your friend’s camera view to the round thumbnail). This is all quite simple.
When you or your friend ends a call, you’ll be returned to the camera view/search bar and “Create Group” button screen.
Note: The search bar lets you search for contacts by name or number, as well as invite friends to Duo. Your friends will need to install Duo in order to be able to video call you using Duo – which seems obvious but worth mentioning.
In the main interface of the Google Duo app (the camera display/search bar and the “Create a group” button screen), tap the button with three horizontal dots in the upper right corner. You will then see options to access Settings, Privacy in Duo, Help, and Feedback. Tap the Settings option.
In this menu, there are several settings you can change, including the ability to disable Knock Knock and Low-light modes. You can also limit your mobile data usage, set your phone to vibrate when it rings (Android only), deregister your phone number, add a Google account, and block numbers, among other things, like Siri Shortcuts for iOS users.
It’s also possible to activate features like Duo Moments, which appear and take photos during a call which are then shared with the group.
Can Google Duo’s Knock Knock feature be disabled?
Yes. Duo has a feature called Knock Knock which lets you see a live video of the caller before you answer. You can deactivate this function in the “Settings” menu of the application (see “Manage preferences” above).
Can Google Duo’s low light mode be turned off?
Yes. Duo has a feature called “low-light mode” that makes you more visible to the person on the other end of a video call if you’re in a poorly lit environment. You can disable this feature in the “Settings” menu that we talked about in the “Manage Preferences” section above.
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Can you make group video calls on Google Duo?
Yes, Google Duo offers group video calls for up to 32 people (but that number will increase to 100 when it merges with Meet). To create a group, tap “Create group” at the bottom of the Google Duo screen and select the contacts you want to add.
Can you make voice calls on Google Duo?
Yes. Like FaceTime and WhatsApp, Duo offers voice calls as well as video calls. You can also send recorded messages.
Can I sign up for Google Duo without a phone number?
No. Duo needs your phone number. The application allows you to reach people in your phone’s contact list. No separate account is required.
Can you make Duo calls from a browser?
Yes, just go to duo.google.com and verify your number to be able to use Duo in your browser.
Written by Maggie Tillman and Elyse Betters. Edited by Max Freeman-Mills.