Pitchforks are being thrown at Allo. I don’t agree with this.

Yesterday, Google’s Allo began rolling out to Android and iOS users. (Not yet in Canada, unless you grab the APK for Android.) Almost immediately I read tweets, Google+ posts, and very angry Reddit threads about Allo, how it is missing features, and how Google has “failed”.

After 24 hours of using the app now with several friends, I do agree, I had hoped for just a bit more from Allo to make me want to lure friends and family from WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger. (I don’t use Hangouts often at all.) By a bit more, I mean;

  • Replies (quotes), such as found in Telegram and WhatsApp.
  • Mentions, also found in Telegram. WhatsApp is implementing this right now.
  • Desktop program for Windows, macOS/OSX, and Linux
    or
    Web app for desktop access via the browser
  • GIF Search, although I am happy enough to see GIFs are supported and play inline the chats!

The four or five features I am hoping for are not deal breakers. People who are used to Facebook Messenger don’t have the Replies or Mentions features. WhatsApp still doesn’t support GIFs (although coming soon). So for Allo to not have these features yet isn’t a cause for rioting.

SMS. Where is it?

The lack of SMS support is the biggest gripe people have. It was rumoured Allo would have SMS support, and while it does use SMS in a unique way to contact people not using Allo, it is not there as we all expected. Many people are giving a knee-jerk reaction to this and showing their frustration and anger. Yes, I too would have liked to see Allo handle SMS instead of Google Messenger or Facebook Messenger. Yes, it would be cool if Allo handled SMS and data messaging like Apple’s iMessage. But it doesn’t, and there is an actual reason for it. Unfortunately, no one stopped to really figure out what those reasons are before blowing their tops.

A Reddit user posted a fantastic thread in /r/Android called “Why SMS Fallback isn’t the holy grail you all perceive it to be” and I encourage you to read through it. His summary read as follows;

No, Allo having SMS Fallback isn’t going to work as well as iMessage or even close, and Google knows this. Person A has Allo, and has Allo as default SMS app. Person B has Allo, but uses FB Messenger as default SMS app. Everything looks/works fine for person A. For person B, if they don’t have a data connection, the SMS will show up in a DIFFERENT app for them. This is a very confusing and hard to deal with scenario for the layman, and one that they likely will not know how to deal with. Will they respond in the SMS app, moving the conversation out of Allo? This is very likely.

It makes sense, right?

On Twitter, Justin Uberti, Principal Engineer, Google; co-lead for Allo, is actively reading through people’s demands suggestions and is responding very well overall. In various tweets, he’s letting us all know that SMS wasn’t a priority, because only the United States (US) and Canada care so much about SMS. Remember, Google is looking at the entire planet as the demographic, not just North America. For those not in the know, outside of the US and Canada, data is cheap, and SMS is expensive. It’s completely opposite than here, where data is costing us an arm and a leg, and SMS messages are just included in your carrier plan.

So what do we do for now with Allo?

Give it time. Uberti said he is listening to us and making a list.

It’s a bit more promising when you actually see feedback from a developer at Google. I look forward to seeing new features appear in Allo in the coming weeks!

Rob Blaich

Rob is the Chief Writer and Founder of Eh! For Android. His current devices are the Huawei Nexus 6P, and the Pebble Time.

  • Mike Wallace

    In my opinion the most appropriate idea that I heard about Allo is that it’s a showcase for Assistant.
    It’s not a fair comparison to compare Allo with Whatsapp, Telegram et all for two reasons : Whatsapp and Telegram doesn’t have thousands upon thousands of engineers, designers, architects, QA, testers, or billions of dollars. Second they didn’t have years of product development and source code to draw on.

    Allo has way too many downsides to be considered a viable product. Not having a tablet version or a desktop version is terrible. Only working on one device at a time is a joke in 2016.

    I have MUCH higher expectations from Google because Google isn’t a normal software development company. They have thousands of times more resources then a normal company.

    I’ll just say this… I won’t mention names, but I saw that one of Google’s Android evangelists stated that he’ll try Allo, but only because it’s Google. Even he knows it’s not up to par. And this was public (though not in words, and it was subtle, which is why I’m not mentioning him)

    • Mike Wallace

      Showcase for Assistant. Called it!!

  • Tom Ostlund

    The one thing that Google keeps missing is the “All In One” concept… more and more apps is not the answer. Unify things give us the app that can handle Calls, SMS, Messaging, and Assistant, ALL IN ONE. Repeatedly we have Messenger… Hangouts…. Hangouts Dialer….. Now Allo… Now Duo…. More and more different apps.. Instead, take Messenger and improve it. Make it a dialer and handle Chat and assistant. Add more to Messenger and give people the option to turn off features if they don’t want them.

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