Allo, the new messaging app from Google, is currently making its way to iOS. It’s designed to be as simple as can be, so you don’t need to setup an account or jump through any other hoops to get started. You can even message others who don’t have Allo installed. Here’s how it works.
Much like WhatsApp, Allo identifies your device using your phone number, which is verifies with a text message when you first start using the service. If you want to, you can link Allo to your Google ID (it happens automatically on Android), but you don’t have to.
Allo uses the contacts list you have already created on your iPhone, so you don’t need to maintain a separate one. Contacts who already have Allo installed will be displayed at the top of the list, but you can also message those who aren’t yet using the Allo app.
“If your contact doesn’t have the app installed, one of two things happen,” explains The Verge. “If they’re on an iPhone, they’ll receive an SMS with your name, the contents of your message, and a link to download the app.”
Your recipient can use that link to quickly download the Allo app should they want to join the party, but if they don’t, they can still respond to your message using a regular SMS. This is thanks to a clever SMS relay that means the Allo app isn’t always necessary.
“If they’re on an Android phone, something new and intriguing happens,” The Verge adds. “Google is calling it an “app preview notification,” and basically it shoots a notification directly to your Android device instead of going through SMS.”
This notification looks and acts as though Allo is already installed — even though it’s not — and circumvents the SMS relay trick. That means that responding to it doesn’t incur any SMS fees.
It’s thought Google has gone to great lengths to make Allo this simple not only to deliver a great user experience, but also to ensure that the service is as attractive as it can be so that it has a better chance of competing with the likes of WhatsApp and Line, which are already so big.
For now, Allo doesn’t come pre-installed on Android devices, and it doesn’t take over the regular Messages app in the same way that iMessage does on iOS. However, it’s unclear whether this might be part of Google’s plan to boost Allo adoption in the future.
If you’d like to try out Allo for yourself, it’s rolling out on iOS around the world right now. You might not see it in every market yet, but you’ll find it by following the download link below.