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Duo’s first major update puts an emphasis on better video quality

Michael Simon | Dec. 8, 2016
Google also patches some bugs and simplifies signup in new version of its video-calling app.

When Google launched its standalone video-calling app Duo in August, it promised simple, high-quality conferencing to rival the FaceTime experience on iOS. With a new update to version 5 currently rolling out in the Play Store, Google's streamlining its new system a little more, making it easier to get started and better to use.

duo chart 
Justin Uberti, the Duo team’s technical leader, tweeted this chart to illustrate user’s positive experiences with the new update.

The most important update here is in video quality. And it’s a big one, so much so that Duo’s technical leader Justin Uberti took to Twitter to promote the new version, saying that “user testing has shown great results,” accompanied by a climbing graph. It’s unclear exactly what the chart is trying to show or what it’s measuring, but it’s positive nonetheless. Elsewhere, Google is bringing a simpler sign-up flow for anyone who may have been stymied by the previous process.

There are also a few bug fixes, most notably with rotating the camera during calls. The update promises to bring seamless switching while moving from the front to the rear shooter during calls, and it has also patched an issue where some users couldn’t get sound on their calls. If you’re not seeing the update yet on your phone, you can sideload the Google-signed update from APKMirror.

Why this matters: Hangouts was never really the cool virtual space Google wanted it to be, and now it is betting big on Duo as its answer to WhatsApp’s own video-calling feature. Name recognition and Android home screen placement isn’t enough here; people need their video calls to be as seamless and lag-free as making a voice call, and this update is a good sign that Google is working to deliver just that.


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