Google today announced that it is integrating video calling into Android via Google Duo. The functionality lets you start a video call directly from three core apps: Android Messages, Contacts, and Phone.
There are a few catches, though. You and the recipient need to have Duo installed and you need to have one of the supported phones (Pixel, Android One, or Nexus). Furthermore, if you want your call to use video over LTE (ViLTE), an extension of voice over LTE, you both have to be using Verizon.
Google Duo is a one-to-one video calling app for Android and iOS that the company launched back in August 2016. It’s one of Google’s many messaging apps: Android Messages, Allo, Duo, Hangouts Chat, and Hangouts Meet — YouTube even got a chat feature recently.
For Duo video calls, the functionality in the Phone, Contacts, and Android Messages apps works exactly as you’d expect. If you and your recipient have Duo, you can just select “video call” from one of the apps and you’re off:
The ability to upgrade an ongoing voice call to video with just a tap is coming “later this year.”
Duo is pretty easy to get (Google Play), so that requirement should be simple enough for both you and the person you’re video calling. In March, the app gained audio calling support, so it’s not a one-trick pony anymore. But Duo is a requirement, even if you never launch the app and only want to use video calling from the Android Messages, Contacts, and Phone apps.
As for supported devices, you (but not the person you’re video calling) only have a handful to choose from. Because Android Nougat is required, here’s the list of supported devices: Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel, Pixel XL, and, of course, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL when they launch. You can also use an Android One device, but if you have one of those, chances are you’re not doing video calling.
Lastly, to try the integration using ViLTE, you and the person you’re video calling have to be on Verizon, a Google spokesperson confirmed to VentureBeat. The company is looking to add more carriers that leverage ViLTE over time, but for now it’s just Verizon.
Google also explained to VentureBeat that your device keeps track of which of your contacts are ViLTE-reachable, Duo-reachable, or both. When you try to make a video call, Android looks at what’s available. In the rare case that both are, ViLTE will take precedence.
This is an exciting new addition to Android, and you can see how it could eventually be integrated directly into Android. For now though, its availability is still extremely limited.