Newspaper article International New York Times

Google Fields an Apple FaceTime Lookalike Aimed at a Broader Market

Newspaper article International New York Times

Google Fields an Apple FaceTime Lookalike Aimed at a Broader Market

Article excerpt

The app fits into Google's playbook. Over the last few years, Google has increasingly offered its important software and internet services to iPhone customers.

Google and Apple have battled each other for years for primacy over mobile users. Apple has proferred its superior devices, like the iPhone. Google has fought back with its Android operating system and a series of mobile apps that are more flexible and compatible with a broader set of devices.

On Tuesday, Google underscored that strategy with the release of its latest mobile app: Duo, a video-calling app that is a direct alternative to Apple's FaceTime.

The app fits squarely into Google's playbook in mobile. Over the last few years, Google has increasingly offered its important software and internet services, including Google Maps, Google Photos and Google Docs, to iPhone customers. All of those apps were compelling alternatives to Apple's proprietary apps, like Apple Maps, Photos and Notes, because they work on a wider variety of devices, including Macs, Windows PCs, Android devices and iPhones.

Duo is no exception. People can only use FaceTime to call others who have Apple devices. But Duo lets you place video calls between Android and iPhone users, and sizably increases the universe of people with whom you can hold a video conversation.

"You shouldn't have to worry about whether your call will connect, or if your friend is using the same type of device as you are," Google said in a statement, in a veiled jab at Apple. "It's no wonder that nearly half of U.S. adults never make video calls on mobile."

All of this feeds into Google's strategy to attract iPhone users to Android. Google's apps generally work better on Android devices than on iPhones, so the more that people get hooked on Google's core apps, the less incentive there is to stay loyal to Apple.

Nick Fox, Google's head of communication products, said the top priority with Duo was to build a great product and to increase the use of video calling among Android users. But he added that making Android more attractive to iPhone owners was a secondary motive.

"Our view is video calling should work for everybody," he said. "If you can only call half the people you know, that's very limiting."

Apple does not profess to be worried by Google's moves. When the company reported falling sales last month, Timothy D. Cook, Apple's chief executive, repeatedly highlighted that the rate at which people were switching from Android-based devices to iPhones was the highest the company had seen.

After trying an early copy of Duo and comparing it side by side with FaceTime, I found that Duo was just as intuitive and fun to use as FaceTime, but that it was too early to tell which service was more reliable.

This is not the first time Google has provided video calling. …

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