Google wants to add a middleman to your mobile chats — a personal virtual assistant who’s not shy about interjecting itself into the conversation.
The new Allo app promises to be “smart,” sort of. Its Google Assistant will butt in with restaurant recommendations when someone types, “Want to get sushi?” It can also send daily updates on weather and sports or suggest replies to your friends’ messages.
The idea is to keep the conversation flowing, so you don’t have to constantly leave Allo to look up something else.
Google is releasing the free chat app [today], just a week after Apple updated its own Messages app with the iOS 10 software update. [The Apple Messages app] works on iPhones and iPads, while Allo will work for iPhones and Android phones, but not tablets.
Do you really need another chat app? Here’s more on Allo to help you decide.
Allo can help cut down on typing on small screens by suggesting replies based on context. If a friend asks how you’re doing, you can tap “Good tnx.” Allo preserves chatting shortcuts such as “u” for “you.” Apple offers something similar on its smartwatch, but not phones or tablets. Allo will also analyze photos to suggest replies such as “beautiful smile” or “the skyline looks great!” — at least for photos with smiles or skylines. Remember that this is software, so its suggestions won’t always make sense.
Of course, you’re free to type your own response. Sending a computer-generated reply to a friend can feel, well, deceptive. Worse, it might make your friend wonder if your response is genuine. And having the suggestions appear in oval bubbles in the chat can make it seem as though a stranger has joined the chat (though you can shut out Google by enabling incognito mode).