Google Allo

Google Allo
A screenshot of Allo, showing the "smart reply" feature
Developer(s) Google
Initial release September 21, 2016 (2016-09-21)
Stable release
3.0 (November 8, 2016 (2016-11-08)) [±][1]

3.0 (November 16, 2016 (2016-11-16)) [±][2]

Development status Active
Operating system Android, iOS
Available in English
Type Instant messaging

Google Allo is an instant messaging mobile app developed by Google that includes a virtual assistant and provides a "smart reply" function that allows users to reply without typing.[3] It was announced at Google I/O on May 18, 2016[4] and launched on September 21, 2016.[5] The app is available on Android and iOS.[5]


Allo was announced at Google I/O on May 18, 2016.[4] At the time, Google said that it would release Allo in summer 2016.[6] Google launched the app on September 21, 2016.[5] It was mentioned during the #MadeByGoogle event in October 2016 that Allo will be pre-installed on Pixel phones, along with its sister app, Google Duo.[7]


Allo is based on phone numbers, not by social media or email accounts.[8]

The Whisper Shout feature being demonstrated at Google I/O 2016

Allo's "Smart reply" function uses Google's machine learning technology to suggest a reply to the last message, which can be selected from a few options. The feature also analyses images sent to the user in order to suggest responses. Similar to the smart reply feature seen in Google's Inbox app, it learns from the user's behaviour to adapt its suggestions over time.[9] Allo is one of the apps that support Google Assistant, a conversational virtual assistant.[5]

"Whisper Shout" allows the user to increase or decrease the size of a message to represent volume.[10]

Allo also lets users draw on photos before sending them.[5]

Incognito mode

Incognito mode is an optional mode that includes expiring chats, private notifications, and end-to-end encryption. For encryption, the app uses the Signal Protocol.[11]

Incognito mode does not include any Smart Reply or Google Assistant features.[12] When the user receives a sticker from a sticker pack that they do not already have installed on their device, the app will retrieve the sticker from Google’s servers using client-to-server encryption.[12]


Virtual assistant

PC World’s Mark Hachman gave a favorable review of Allo's virtual assistant, saying that it was a "step up on Cortana and Siri".[13]

Optional encryption

Following Allo's introduction at Google I/O, Google was criticised by security experts and privacy advocates for having the end-to-end encryption turned off by default, which they argue leaves the app open to government surveillance.[11][14] Edward Snowden, whistleblower and former NSA contractor, criticised the app on Twitter, saying that "Google's decision to disable end-to-end encryption by default in its new #Allo chat app is dangerous, and makes it unsafe."[14][15] Thai Duong, a co-lead of Google's product security team, wrote in a personal blog post that he would push for the addition of a setting that would let users have the encryption on all the time, but he later retracted the statement.[16][17]

Message retention

When Allo was first introduced, its developers talked about storing non-incognito messages only transiently[6][18] — namely that the messages would be deleted from Google's servers after they had been delivered to their destination. At launch, Google revealed that they would instead store all non-incognito messages indefinitely (or until the user actively deleted them) in order to improve the built in "smart reply" feature.[18] Russell Brandom of The Verge commented that "the decision will have significant consequences for law enforcement access to Allo messages. By default, Allo messages will now be accessible to lawful warrant requests, the same as message data in Gmail and Hangouts".[18]

See also


  1. "Google Allo on the Google Play Store". Google Play. Google. November 21, 2016. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
  2. "Google Allo on the iOS App Store". iTunes. Apple. November 16, 2016. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
  3. Reisinger, Don (23 September 2016). "What Makes Google's Allo a Smarter Approach to Messaging". eWeek. QuinStreet Inc. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  4. 1 2 Lunden, Ingrid (18 May 2016). "Google debuts Allo, an AI-based chat app using its new assistant bot, smart replies and more". TechCrunch. AOL Inc. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Gibbs, Samuel (21 September 2016). "Google launches WhatsApp competitor Allo – with Google Assistant". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  6. 1 2 Bohn, Dieter (18 May 2016). "Allo is a messaging app with Google built right in". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  7. Rakowski, Brian (October 4, 2016). "Introducing Pixel, our new phone made by Google". Google. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  8. Geuss, Megan (18 May 2016). "Google's Allo and Duo are 2 communication apps based on your phone number". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  9. Lee, Nicole (19 May 2016). "Please don't send me Smart Replies". Engadget (Opinion piece). AOL Inc. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  10. Beres, Damon (18 May 2016). "Google Debuts A New Texting App You'll Actually Want To Use". The Huffington Post. AOL Inc. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  11. 1 2 Greenberg, Andy (18 May 2016). "With Allo and Duo, Google Finally Encrypts Conversations End-to-End". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  12. 1 2 Caroline (n.d.). "Chat in private with Incognito mode". Google Allo Help. Google. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  13. Hachman, Mark (22 September 2016). "Hands-on: Google Assistant's Allo chatbot outdoes Cortana, Siri as your digital pal". PC World. IDG. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  14. 1 2 Tung, Liam (20 May 2016). "NSA whistleblower Snowden: Google Allo without default encryption is 'dangerous'". ZDNet. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  15. Hackett, Robert (21 May 2016). "Here's Why Privacy Savants Are Blasting Google Allo". Fortune. Time Inc. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  16. Conger, Kate (20 May 2016). "Google engineer says he'll push for default end-to-end encryption in Allo". TechCrunch. AOL Inc. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  17. Goodin, Dan (20 May 2016). "Incensing critics, Google engineer ends push for crypto-only setting in Allo". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  18. 1 2 3 Brandom, Russell (21 September 2016). "Google backs off on previously announced Allo privacy feature". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
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