Video calls have quickly become one of the most intimate ways you can communicate with someone using technology. Yeah, Skype might have got in there early, but there are now plenty of other ways to do it β Google Duo included.
While you've previously been able to use Google Home devices to call your friends and family, Google's Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max smart displays have changed the game. Adding a display and a camera means adding the ability to video chat with the people you care about.
So, here's your guide to how to getting Duo set up so you can start calling.
What is Google Duo?
Google Duo is Google's video calling app. It's kind of like Google's old Hangouts feature, but in a new app. It primarily works across iOS and Android devices, so you won't have friends left out over their choice of smartphone (like FaceTime).
One of the more unique features of Google Duo is Knock Knock. When someone calls you, you'll see a video preview of them β fed live from their camera β as the call rings. There'll be a slight fog about them, but it's a live look.
If you're video calling someone because you want to show them something that very moment and they don't pick up, you can also quickly record a video message for them instantly.
Of course, if you can't video call with someone for some reason, you can simply audio call them with Duo instead. All Google Duo calls use end-to-end encryption too, and the only people who can see what's going on are you and the person you're chatting with.
Now that we've gotten the basics out the way, how do you use the thing?
How to set up Google Duo
The first step is to download the Google Duo app in either Google Play or the App Store. Follow along for what to do after that.
2. Give access to your microphone, camera and contacts.
3. Confirm access when the pop-up appears.
4. Put in your phone number.
From here, Google will send you a one-time code through text. Type that in and you're set to go.
Google Duo is one of the big draws of Google's Nest Hub smart displays, which marry Google Assistant to a display, although only the Nest Hub Max packs a camera for full video-calling fun. It's even easier to set up Google Duo on these devices. But you'll have to set up Duo and linked it to your Google account first. Here's how you do it.
1. Open up the Google Home app.
2. Click on the account tab.
3. Scroll down and click More settings.
4. Tap Services.
5. Choose Voice & video calls.
6. Choose Video & Voice Apps.
7. Click Google Duo.
8. Tap phone number
9. You'll be booted to the Duo app, where you'll link your accounts.
How to use Google Duo
The Google Duo app's main page is split into two halves. There's a view of what you look like up at the top, and then a search bar that'll let you search through your contacts. Oh, and if you swipe up to the full camera view, there's a little toggle that will switch you between video and audio modes.
The interesting thing about the Google Duo app is that you never actually have to type in your Google credentials. You can do so if you want by hitting the vertical three buttons in the top right corner, then looking under Google Account and hitting Add Account.
Adding your Google account to the Duo app will basically let you use it on a number of devices, like computers, Chromebooks, smart displays and speakers.
In the settings menu, you'll also get the option to delete your Duo account, take a look at your blocked numbers and toggle a bunch of features. Google will let you know when new Duo features are available, for instance, or when your contacts join Duo, in the notification settings.
That final feature is a little on the weird side, as Google will recommend times to use Duo. If there are special events going on, or big topics happening in the news, Duo will send you a notification and tell you that something is happening. Like hey, you're at a concert maybe you can call your friend and show them. It's a little odd, but hey, it's a new idea, we guess.
Using Google Duo on your Nest Hub Max is even simpler. Once you've linked your accounts and devices through Google Home, you can say something like "Ok Google, call James" or "Ok Google, video call Stephanie". You can also use Google Assistant to mute the call, unmute the call, turn off the video and even answer or decline a call.
Be aware, however, that you will need to turn on the appropriate setting for this to all work on a Google Nest Hub device. To do so, do the following:
1. Open up the Google Home app.
2. Click on your smart display.
3. Tap Device settings.
4. Under More, tap Duo video calling.
5. Follow the steps on-screen to link the services
On a Google Home speaker without a display this isn't quite as slick. You can still receive audio calls, and make them, but you won't know who's calling until you pick up, and you can only do that using the buttons on your Google Home speaker, rather than using Google Assistant.
To make a call, just use the, "Hey Google, call [contact name] on Duo," command. You can also call specific speakers in your home from your phone or another Google Home speaker by saying "call living room," or whatever you've named a given space. We're hoping this functionality gets an update in due course, to bring it up to speed.
With all that done, though, congratulations: you're ready to Duo.