Google is Bringing Video Calling to Android

Posted on October 12, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 46 Comments

Google is Bringing Video Calling to Android

Google announced today that it will integrate video calling capabilities directly into Android.

“We’re making video calling an integrated part of your phone,” Google product manager Jan Jedrzejowicz writes. “You can now start a video call directly from where you call or text message your friends, through your Phone, Contacts, and Android Messages apps. Later this year, we’ll also add the ability to upgrade an ongoing voice call to video with just a tap.”

So that is pretty exciting. It’s also a nice turnaround from Google’s historically messed up communications strategy. For example, Google announced two messaging apps, Allo and Duo at Google I/O in mid-2016, with the latter aimed at video calls. But both compete, in some ways, with another Google app, Hangouts.

Anyway, integrated video calling is being rolled out first to first-generation Pixel handsets and Android One and Nexus devices, Google says. And it will, of course, be available on the Pixel 2 when those handsets ship in November. Google says that it is working with its carrier and hardware partners to bring this experience to more devices over time as well.


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Comments (46)

46 responses to “Google is Bringing Video Calling to Android”

  1. wunderbar

    See, the integrated video calling requires, and uses Duo, so while this is definitely "bringing video calling to Android" it is as much "we really want people to use our standalone video calling app"

    • JacobTheDev

      In reply to wunderbar:

      I mean, if it "just works" for anyone using Android, regardless of if they have ever used Duo before, I think it's still a pretty cool update. Looking forward to trying this out.

      EDIT: Upon attempting to try this out, it seems like the other user probably needs to have Duo already set up. All of my contacts have the video icon grayed out. *sad trombone music*

      • ommoran

        In reply to Jacob-Bearce:

        And with Facetime, everyone had to upgrade to a new OS to get it. Same with this. And if they have a dialler video cam button that launches Duo, who cares?

        I would rather Skype, because it's cross platform and I know too many iSheep. But it seems like Skype lost that chance, too. Sigh.

        • JacobTheDev

          In reply to ommoran:

          Something built in to the dialer is much more interesting than a third party solution simply because it's built in; you don't need to convince everyone you want to talk to to sign up for the new app. Of course, most Android phones don't use Google's dailer, so this probably doesn't have much chance of being adopted.

  2. Stooks

    Oddly missing from your blog post, is the technical part of all of this. Reading your post I was wondering how this is happening?????? I mean on the Apple side it is Facetime, where you do this from you contacts in a iOS or macOS device. From Microsoft is would be Skype. How is Google doing this???????????????????????????

    From the link to Google they DO explain it.

    "If you and the person you’re video calling are on a carrier that supports ViLTE video call service, your video calls will be routed through the carrier’s ViLTE service. If not, Google Duo will connect your video call to anyone with the app installed"

    All I can say is....its about time???

    Google's messaging strategy is a complete mess. We have Android Messenger, Hangouts, Allo, Duo and now ViLTE.

    Same goes for their music/video options. Google Play Music, Google Play Video, YouTube, YouTube Red, YouTube music, YouTube TV....ALL with separate apps.

    Email....Gmail or Inbox?

    ChromeOS, Android or a new OS to unify both of those??

    Google where are you going????????

    • jbuccola

      In reply to Stooks:

      I wish I could upvote this x1000.

      Don't forget about Google Voice... is it a tether or backbone of Fi? Will it be maintained going forward? How does it integrate with the other myriad messaging products?

      Google's platform is rife with products in beta or at imminent risk of abandonment.

    • wright_is

      In reply to Stooks:

      Video calling has been part of the GSM standard for around 2 decades. Dumb phones, feature phones and WIndows Mobile all supported it, then it mysteriously disappeared from all "smartphones".

      • Davor Radman

        In reply to wright_is:

        I've seen you posting this multiple times now. And nobody responded. I think it might be because nobody knows what are you talking about.

        Users don't care if something is available technically and technologically. It has to be there, it has to be free and it has to just work. Which it didn't, before. it does now.

      • Stooks

        In reply to wright_is:


        The point really is Google's lack of strategy or ability to communicate their strategy is lacking.

        They make some great products but their ability to focus and communicate is horrible.

        It is like a bunch of really smart ADHD nerds making great stuff but with zero project management or marketing behind it.

        I was actually shocked I saw a commercial on TV for the new Pixel 2 phone. I remember seeing ad's for the first Pixel for about 4 weeks after it launched. Compare that to iPhone or Samsung ad's which are year round.

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  4. Mark from CO


    So it looks like the use of the 0.5B Skype Android downloads will begin disappearing fast. Great example of the benefits of Microsoft receives when devoting its best to provide products and services to other platforms. How ungrateful Google!!

    Nadella really hit a homer hasn't he.

    Mark from CO

  5. wright_is

    Yawn, my Windows Mobile 6 phone from 2007 could do video calling, so did most of the Nokia feature phones. It sort of died a death after the iPhone and Android appeared, because neither supported it.

    We had someone in the office who got the first iPhone, he got wound up something rotten by people making video calls to him, he tried to accept the call, only to be told his device wasn't capable of accepting the call. (This was video calling over GSM).

  6. offTheRecord

    Google's "strategy" on this is baffling. With the combination of Hangouts and a free Google Voice number, I've been doing this kind of thing for years. With only one app, Hangouts, I can make and receive audio and video calls and send and receive text messages to anyone else with Hangouts (and Hangouts used to be part of the default Android app package -- it was on every Android device until Google decided to stop loading it by default a few years ago).

    In addition, anyone can call me and text me at my Google Voice number (a real phone number) using their phone (any brand and any OS -- and even Facetime) and I will receive that call or text anywhere in the world -- for free (all I need is an Internet connection -- and the real benefit to me is that I'm able to do all of this with a data connection to the Internet via WiFi or a standard cellular data connection -- no need to have a calling and texting plan). And, as others have mentioned, Hangouts is cross-platform, which means I can do all of this from my phone, my PC, my tablet, even an iPhone or iPad. It's great.

    Hangouts literally could have been Google's Facetime. I can't help but think that they completely missed the boat on this one.

  7. red.radar

    Sounds great but I am skeptical about execution.

    Bring to other devices over time....

    call me when it’s on all android phones otherwise it’s niche at best. Overtime suggests a open ended timeline. ... which means this hasn’t been thought through completely.

    I am tired of Silicon Valley’s throw things to the wall and see what sticks strategy. I want commitment and follow through. I am sick of fairy tales and empty promises . Especially from big companies like google

    step up!

  8. sharpsone

    Hope the EU comes down on them for this crap. If it's integrated it's a competive advantage over other services. They need to make this open so consumers can select a video call app of their own choosing. I use Android but beyond the core OS and app store I'm not interested in using any of Google services. I'm sure I'm not alone here.

  9. nbplopes

    I don't know what its so exciting about this. Been doing that for over 5 years in the iPhone, with family, friends and colleagues. Still most of the time we don't choose video call but audio.

    I guess if it was the other way around, learning Apple doing this now and Google have done it for years, the tone of the text would be quite different.

    After all, isn't this a close system too? Meaning, its not based on open standards?

    People say that Apple its expensive, its only in it for the money and Google or MS its all for the common man bla bla bla.

    But let's just see.

    iPhone SE: $349

    Apple Watch Series 3: $329

    Total: $678

    For this price, one gets a smooth experience, the features explained here and much more. Brilliant App Store, health monitoring up down right left and much much more than a Pixel 2 can offer right now. Should I say even Samsung S8 or Note. Even iPhone X. Ok, you don't get the best camera, but you get a good one. You might not get the best Assistant, but a leading one? You might not get the best VR but still get augmented reality that works. You might not get the biggest screen but an extremely usable one.

    But hey, you got to have the latest thing in America. But are you getting really the latest thing? Or getting the latest beta thing? Just thinking out-loud. ...

    The only word that comes to my mind a mix of technical and intelectual consumerism.


    PS: I'm eager to know how all that was announced works. I think it will work really nice, honest, but waiting to see how well these devices will work in 3 years.

  10. Bats

    The only problem I have with Google Duo is that's not yet available for the desktop, or Chrome. One of the great things about Hangouts is that you can type chat or video call on both the phone and the desktop.

  11. Chris_Kez

    I get nervous any time I see a new Android feature that requires Google to work with its carrier and hardware partners, so I clicked through to the original Google blog post as well their help page. Here are a few more details:

    "If you and the person you’re video calling are on a carrier that supports ViLTE video calling, your video calls will be routed through the carrier’s ViLTE service. If not, Google Duo will connect your video call to anyone with the app installed. To use Duo, make sure you and the person you’re calling have the app installed and activated."

    So both of you need to have Duo. This also requires Android 7.0 (Nougat) or higher. And you might want to make sure that neither your carrier nor your handset maker has its own video calling app/service that might interfere with it.

    In other words, this is not exactly Facetime for Android; maybe we'll be there in a few years.

  12. ben55124

    So the pixel dialer integrates duo -- like windows phone dialer integrated skype?

  13. Jorge Garcia

    C'mon Google. It can't be that hard to roll up EVERY type of communication into one App (G-Message???). I know it could be made backwards-compatible as well. Of course, every existing Google communication app handles their messaging differently and can never be made to talk "directly" to one another, but what's so hard about sending the outgoing messages first to a central "translation and compatibility" server that distills the message down to whatever the basic common denominator is for the two differing Apps? I've seen this done before in lots of low-rent messaging Apps like IMO and others...if I send a message with a special animation and the recipient hasn't yet upgraded to the newest version that supports that type of sends a link, a placeholder, or at least an explanation for why you're not getting the whole message. "G-Message" could easily send a friendly message like..."This is a G-Message, and it contains a Gif (or whatever) that your Hangouts app does not currently support". I know that the same type of central server could be used to relay distilled messages between the existing services as well. Yes that would kind of suck, but at least it would allow basic text communication to reach those people who refuse to use more than one App, and the knowledge of the extra features that did not make it through would be there as well." IMO that is the interim service that Google sorely needs to tie together all their messaging Apps. I know it isn't as easy as I make it sound, but this is Google, they translate Japanese in real-time into your ear.

    • Jorge Garcia

      In reply to JG1170:

      For those who downvote, I'd like to hear your arguments that "G-Message" ISN'T a long overdue service, and that there AREN'T ways to backwards-connect the existing Google services via a routing and translation server of some kind. It IS overdue, and there ARE ways.

  14. BoItmanLives

    About time Android got it's own FaceTime.

    Now iOS really has nothing good left.

    • jbuccola

      In reply to BoItmanLives:

      AirDrop... handoff... unified messaging across devices... a cohesive platform strategy that works... highest grade security of any consumer OS... no need to reset/reload every 3 months... privacy...

      Yeah, nothing good there at all.

      • Orin

        In reply to jbuccola:

        Just a response to the no need to reset/reload every 3 months. My wife and I have been using Moto G4 Plus phones for about 14 months (bought them at launch) and we haven't reloaded once. I've never experienced the slow down that Paul has mentioned numerous times when it comes to Android. This phone is just as speedy as it was when I bought it.

        • jbuccola

          In reply to Orin:

          There are select use cases / phones / configurations that are exempt, but the majority have this issue. Inverse is true on iOS.

          The other aspect often overlooked is resale value. IOS devices simply don’t depreciate as fast as Android devices.

    • Jorge Garcia

      In reply to BoItmanLives:

      It's going to be a while before Google's Messaging ecosystem is anywhere near as integrated as Apple's. iMessage and Facetime are masterstrokes of d-baggy platform lock-in. In the US, nobody wants to be the "green bubble" of the family or of the "cool" group. It's blue or nothing.

      • Daekar

        In reply to JG1170:

        You know, I see people claim this, but I have trouble believing anyone gives a damn about the color of their text bubble.

        • SvenJ

          In reply to Daekar: It made a difference when not everyone had unlimited txt. I suppose some still don't.

        • Orin

          In reply to Daekar:

          I used to be in the iPhone camp and remember shared feelings of frustration with other iPhone users towards Android users that didn't have iMessage. There are definite disconnects between Android and iPhone group messaging. But now that I'm riding the Android train, I'm ignorant to how iPhone users feel about this.

          • Stooks

            In reply to Orin:

            Android messaging is not un-usable, but I still see Android users struggle with group messaging all the time.

            A iPhone user starts a group message, I reply to the group and often someone on Android will get my text and think it is just me texting them because it simply breaks, where everyone else sees my reply in the group message. Getting a reply from the Android user like "who is this?" because they don't have me in their contacts and the text looks like it is just me to them.

        • Stooks

          In reply to Daekar:

          It is not the color so much as all the abilities that come with it.

          It is the default (can't be changed) messaging platform on iOS. iMessage comes with a lot of abilities, many lame but many very nice. The combination of being the only default and those abilities make it popular.

        • macguy59

          In reply to Daekar:

          Then be troubled because apparently iPhone users do

  15. derekaw

    Like iOS has had for years, thats so cute.