Google Allo review: Google's bland new app is not the iMessage/WhatsApp/FB Messenger killer you are looking for


Google's latest messaging app is finally here. Yes, Google Allo is finally here and up for grabs. In case it's not available in your country or the Play Store link only allows you to register for the app, you can try sideloading it - it will work as intended. Here is a working APK file that will get you on the Allo train in no time. Needless to say, we were quite impatient to get Allo out for a spin and see if Google has finally cracked the winning formula behind Apple's mighty iMessage and if it has created an exceptional all-in-one messaging service at long last. 

Spoiler alert: it hasn't. Let us tell you why.
 

What Allo is

From the get-go, Allo has all the basic features that any messaging app should have: group chats, tons of sticker packs, and the ability to share and doodle on any pictures you send. Then, it steps up its feature game with the built-in Google assistant bot and the well-implemented Smart Reply feature, which provides you with predefined contextual answers for every conversation and also uses Google's servers to provide you with context answers about any picture coming your way. That's... that's pretty much it in terms of features. It won't be too far-fetched to compare Allo to a slightly smarter albeit a bit less functional alternative to either Viber or WhatsApp.


What Allo isn't

If you've been hopeful that Allo will be your next all-in-one messaging hub, sorry to break your bubble - Allo is not an SMS client and does not allow you to send/receive text messages over your carrier's cellular network. True, sending a message to any of your contacts that don't have Allo installed will deliver a message with a pop-up invitation for downloading Allo to them, but don't get the impression this is an SMS. No, it's simply a message routed through Google's service and sent through a service number. Basically, you are communicating with your friend via plain messages, but your phone number won't be the one sending these. So, technically, Allo doesn't send SMS messages when the receiving party doesn't have the app installed.

Google's assistant is useful but gets old quickly

Okay, Allo would have been just another run-of-the-mill messenger if it wasn't for the baked in Google Assistant bot. Despite still in beta, it does its job nicely. You can chat with it in a separate thread and also summon it in any other conversation by typing "@google", which is pretty useful. 

So, what does this Google Assistant bot thingy do? It's quite feature-rich and is basically the a hub for almost all things Google-related: 

  • it can tap into Google Now and set alarms, timers, reminders on your behalf; 
  • it can tap into Google Photos and show photos that meet a predefined criteria; 
  • it can tap into Gmail and show you your emails;
  • it can tap into Google News and show you the recent local and international news, sports news and scores included;
  • it can tap into Google Translate and interpret text or images;
  • it can tell you what the weather is right now or whether it will rain anytime soon;
  • it can suggest local restaurants, bars, or joints, or even what movies play in the local theater;
  • it can show you the current status of a given flight or help you get a Uber/Lyft, as well as directions to a given location;
  • it can tell you a joke, an interesting random fact, or even recite a poem for you if you're bored;
  • it can play a 'chat', quiz, or a classic doodle game;
  • it will also respond to any emoji you send with a witty remark or an... emoji;
  • it can search the web for you;
  • and so on.

Basically, Google Assistant is a pretty feature-packed interactive bot that feels 'complete' despite still being in open beta. Communicating with it feels natural, though not groundbreaking at all. It definitely has a bright future and we really feel that we will be seeing more of it in the coming years. 

We find it pretty useful that you can use the assistant bot in any conversation or group chat and use it to deliver contextual information at the nick of time. For example, imagine you're in a group chat with your crew and you're discussing whether to head to the movie theater this week or not. 

In general, you will either fall in love with the built-in Google Assistant bot and use it all the time or get bored with it in a couple of minutes. In the end, the bot knows only so many jokes.

Stickers and doodling galore

Although we are not particular fans of stickers and doodling on pictures we send, we simply can't overlook the fact that Allo is a haven for all users to which these features are a fundamental necessity. There are roughly more than 25 sticker packs available for download in Allo, and we are sure that many the app will score multiple new ones as time unravels. As far as doodling is concerned, we highly value the fact that you can both annotate an image with text in a Snapchat-esque way or simply doodle something on it.

The interface is unapologetically bland

There's no other way around that - we can't say we are fans of the interface of Allo. For one, the conversation background is not very appealing and we felt bummed that we can't customize it or any other part of the interface in any way. A pet peeve, of course, but Allo did not win us over in terms of design. 

Вe know for a fact (or do we?) that Google is capable of making an appealing app—the iOS version of Inbox is a beaut—but sadly, Allo is an ugly duckling in its current iteration.

Depending who you ask, Allo will be touted as either ultra sleek or plain hideous. To us, it's something in-between. We won't lie - we expected more.

You can only use the app on one device

Similar to Viber, Google Allo is linked to your phone number. That's because the new kid on the messaging block doesn't explicitly require you to sign in with a valid Google account in order to use it. Trying to install Allo on a new device will delete all of your private conversations, group chats, and blocked phone numbers from the old one.However, if you have linked the app with a Google account, your chats with the Google Assistant will remain untouched and be accessible on your new device. 

No desktop client

Sigh. A full-blown desktop client would have made Google Allo so much better. We are aware that this could happen in the future, but in its current state Allo simply can't compete with WhatsApp, Viber, iMessage on the Mac, and even Facebook's Messenger, which has been essentially decoupled from the full-blown Facebook website and can be used with a phone number only (and even has a not too shabby desktop client).

Conclusion - grim prospects

Taken in a vacuum, Allo is definitely a very good messaging service on its own: apart from covering the basics, it has some intriguing features that can easily suck you in for a while. In particular, chatting with the Google Assistant bot was great fun. However, Google Allo won't be fortunate enough to exist in such a vacuum, quite the contrary - the competition is 


After spending some time with Allo and testing all of its features, we have made up our minds - while not a bad app per se, The likes of Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and mostly iMessage are giant hurdles to overcome, and we don't see Allo beating any of these at their own game anytime soon. Additionally, the lack of SMS support is a gaping omission that will prevent Allo from potentially being a true competitor and a viable alternative to iMessage, because let's face it - this is what Android users have mostly been craving for.

At the moment, Allo's future looks pretty gloomy - the app is unexciting and only covers the basics. We expected way more from Google, but our high hopes remained merely wishful thinking - we will keep those in check for Google's next messaging app.

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52 Comments

1. Bm888

Posts: 517; Member since: Jul 06, 2015

Hallo Allo.. Adios Allo ^_^

18. Bankz

Posts: 2531; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Imessage is in a class of its own tbh..

2. Martineverest

Posts: 521; Member since: Oct 27, 2015

pls and pls,ALLOarena,i am not looking for any imessage competitor...ok?

10. LebronJamesFanboy

Posts: 671; Member since: Mar 23, 2013

I'm definitely looking for an iMessage competitor available for Android. iMessage is great.

11. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

agreed we need something 100% crossplatform thats do both sms and over data messaging. otherwise its useless. In fact even iMessage is useless for me because first i dont use iPhone second most of my friend dont as well.

15. Martineverest

Posts: 521; Member since: Oct 27, 2015

upcoming skype messenger is what u need

17. therealestmc

Posts: 679; Member since: Jul 23, 2012

But iMessage can send regular text messages to people who don't have it.

46. fancollo

Posts: 130; Member since: Dec 30, 2015

try wire... it's crossplatform, has everything and does it without ads and is secure. and free. sounds too good right...

3. SuperAndroid507

Posts: 361; Member since: Jan 06, 2014

Talk, Hangout, Duo, Allo... MSN Messenger, ICQ and the rest are waiting for them in the forgotten realm. At the end of the day everybody come back to Whatsapp. Whatsapp is a good example of having the right idea at the right time.

5. TerryTerius unregistered

That really depends on where you live and whether or not you have an iPhone, but point taken. You're not wrong.

13. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Well if you have iPhone and use Imessage and try to Imessage me you will end up sending simple SMS :)

28. TerryTerius unregistered

I really wish Google would bite the bullet and come up with a true competitor to iMessage, talk to their OEMs and get it to replace SMS altogether. Make it a standard for all future android devices. They have been tiptoeing around this for years, and I'd be lying if I said I fully understood why. They may not be able to do that for android devices that don't have access to the Google play store, but surely they could do it for those that do. I don't see why Samsung, Huawei, or anyone else would have an issue with that.

7. MKeditor

Posts: 97; Member since: Dec 10, 2010

I don't use whatsapp. I tried it but it didn't do anything for me. I can't agree with your "everybody" statement. I'm not trying to be confrontational. I just am saying not everyone feels that way.

20. Bankz

Posts: 2531; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Thought I was the only one who hated whatsapp even if it has now become the defacto messaging app at this point. But I still hate it anyway. Just so boring and unexciting. As far as I'm's go, BBM is still miles ahead of the rest. The only problem is people hardly use them anymore. The use of BB pins, retrieving sent messages and status/pictures updates simply can't be beat imo

35. Junito

Posts: 144; Member since: Feb 12, 2012

The problem with Whatsapp is, the receiving party has to have it install, too. iMessages is great for iPhone users, but you can also send sms and mms to non-iPhone users. I really had high hopes for Hangouts; video conferencing in ***outs is a nightmare, and trying to send videos, forget about it. On a positive note, you can start your conversation on your Android device, get home, and continue it on your iPad. Sms, mms, is great and don't have to use your data.

38. AlikMalix unregistered

Man, that's exactly how I feel. We should start a club.

4. IAMBLCKJ3ZUS

Posts: 402; Member since: Sep 29, 2015

Another opinion you're being pretty harsh on just a messenger app. It gets the job done and will update with user feedback. No one cares if it killed iMessage many just wanted hope for a similar experience to iMessage. Got my wife to use it and she loves it. Think you had way too high of expectations.

6. TerryTerius unregistered

Google is a massive company with virtually unlimited resources and some of the greatest minds on the planet. There is nothing wrong with expecting them to put out a high-quality product. I am not defending this interpretation of Allo because I've never used it and I can't form my own opinions. But I disagree that we shouldn't hold Google to high standards, they aren't some small start up. Personally, I expect these companies to excel and push the boundaries. Not merely get the job done.

14. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Allo work flawlessly on ios and android. Give about all the feature of imessage and more ( beside sms support ) Its a high quality product but if an apple lover review it ofcourse they will find way to downgrade it. I highly recommend to try it as its do much more than just get the job done.

22. Rydsmith unregistered

Allo comes no where close to iMessage. On the surface it may look that way but just a little peeling back reveals that to not be the case. Can I have a conversation on one device and continue it on another? Oh no, I can't... Can I at least send a text to those not on Allo and have a conversation making it my new means of communication? Oh co, I can't... Oh I know, I can hit one button in it to launch video chat like iMessage. Wait, I need a different app for that too!? OK, ok, ok.... Then I obviously can at least make a phone call from it at the very least. Wait...I can't even do that!? What the hell can I do with this app besides uninstall it!?

24. Awalker

Posts: 1973; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

All the things you mentioned in your post can be done with Hangouts - Google's other messaging app.

25. Rydsmith unregistered

What a pity we're not talking about Hangouts, we're talking about Allo, a major step back by Google. Especially with Google pulling Hangouts out of the consumer realm and putting it into the Enterprise realm. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/16/google-hangouts-business-focus-duo-allo/

27. Awalker

Posts: 1973; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

The only problem I have with Allo is the way it handles SMS. They should either integrate SMS fully or not at all.

26. Bankz

Posts: 2531; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Loool.. +1000

39. AlikMalix unregistered

You forgot that you can request and/or share your location with people you're texting with in iMessage. Also not sure about Allo - but iMessage now supports third party plugins - it's actually becoming its own little platform now.

8. MKeditor

Posts: 97; Member since: Dec 10, 2010

It's still the honeymoon phase but Allo works for me. Text via T-mobile has had some reliability issues and FB messenger is ok for some things. I'm looking forward to seeing how Allo works over time. It's pretty easy.

9. EC112987

Posts: 1214; Member since: Nov 10, 2014

The hate is real!

12. BobbyDigital

Posts: 2124; Member since: May 29, 2014

The hate is really real. The app just came out. I'm sure it'll be updated with the features everyone wants. None of those other apps like iMessage, BBM, WhatsApp or the rest were spot on perfect when they first came out. Give it a rest Phonearena.

23. Rydsmith unregistered

The difference is that this app is launching in an already crowded environment. This is a massive company with virtually unlimited resources the "give it time" excuse is utter bullocks and unacceptable. If you want to come into a new field you better come with something the others don't have and Allo brings nothing to the table, nothing new or nothing refreshing. Compared to the others, it's a step back from competition.

40. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

yeah right... and, google can kickstarter this new messager by: - include it in future android (as bloatware, lol) - auto login with google account - import all messages, friends, contacts, groups, etc from gtalk, hangouts, G+, Gmail

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