Allo, the messaging app Google launched into a crowded market last September, is getting an update today. The update focuses on improved support for emoji and GIFs (because that is, after all, what the world needs), and easier access to the Google Assistant.
As far as we can tell, Allo has been anything but a hit for Google. With Hangouts, the company had a perfectly solid and competitive cross-platform messaging app in the market. Instead of trying to build on that, though, it launched Allo for messaging and Duo for one-on-one video chats. Hangouts was supposed to become the more business-centric chat app and Allo and Duo were supposed to become its consumer counterparts. All Google achieved with this strategy so far is confusion and very little traction in the marketplace for either Allo or Duo. And to muddy the waters even more, Google also quietly launched Meet by Google Hangouts — an extra-enterprise friendly version of Hangout — earlier this week and then quickly pulled the app from the Google Play store after we wrote about it.
Today’s update isn’t likely to make a difference in Allo’s popularity. If you do use it, though, it’ll now be easier to add GIFs to your conversations. You only have to tap the smiley icon in the chat bar and then swipe left to bring up the GIF search. Easy enough.
Allo is also getting new animated emoji. Simply select one, touch and hold the send button, and then drag up or down to make them larger or smaller.
Probably the most useful new feature is faster access to the Google Assistant in Allo. The compose box now features a button that lets you add the Assistant to any conversation with just a tap. Google says one out of twelve messages in group chats in Allo are to the Google Assistant already.
All of these new features are starting to roll out on Android today and will also come to iOS “soon” (though it’s unclear how soon “soon” is).