Google Duo is an application that has been created mainly to be able to make video calls between two or more people, with a limit of 12. On the other hand, it also allows you to send voice messages, photos or notes to contacts that have downloaded and updated.
This application has 4 main features or functions: Camera, Search/Mark, Create Group and Options. All of them are accessible from the main screen.
- Camera. This function is displayed using the top half of the screen as the camera itself. To use this function is displayed a message that says "swipe down to send a message", once this action is performed you can use the camera function completely, having an identical operation to the camera that has the device that is being used, being able to record a video adding effects and filters, record a voice note, send a photo from the gallery and write a note using the keyboard.
- Search/Mark. This section shows a search bar where you can enter the name of the contact being searched for or the phone number of the contact being searched. If you do not want to use the search engine you can also search for the contact by swiping up to scroll through the contact list.
- Create Group. With respect to this section, a button is displayed at the bottom of the screen, which, when pressed, indicates that the contacts you want to add to that group are marked with a maximum of 11. The search form for contacts is the same as offered in the Search/Mark section.
- Options. This section is presented as a three-dot icon at the top right of the screen. When pressed a small menu is displayed showing 3 other features (this menu may contain some extra features depending on the device being used):
- Settings – In it you will be able to synchronize the app with a Google account, make call settings (enable data saving mode, activate low light mode or Knock Knock mode, which serves to see the person you are calling before unhook), choose the theme (light, dark or defined by Power Save mode), adjust notifications and, view and add blocked users.
- Privacy at Duo – Provides privacy information in calls and the use of facial data that uses filters and effects.
To analyze and be able to carry out an evaluation of the application, a series of tests have been carried out to verify its operation. Tests have been performed on a Samsung Galaxy J7 device (Android 9 Pie) with version 85.0.308355559, an iPhone 6S (iOS 13.3.1) with version 85.0.1609, a Teclast tablet (Android 7.0) with version 85.0.38355559 and in its web version (Windows 10 on Google Chrome).
To be able to make a call it is only necessary to find the contact you want in the contact list or by the search engine by entering the name or its number to find it. If you want to make a video call with several people; for example, one that involves an older person with five of their grandchildren, can be done in two different ways, creating a group from the main screen of the app, where once pressed the button will be asked to select the contacts that you want to add to the group; the other way is to make an individual call and, once you have taken the call you add the other relatives to it. When any of the calls, whether individual or group, are finished, the recent history is displayed under the camera so that they can quickly access those contacts next time, so an older person could initiate a call with a family member they've already spoken to more quickly.
As for the function that allows us to send messages, you only must swipe down to be able to access it. Once inside this function you can record a video, a voice note or make a written note; when the message record is finished, a list of all contacts and groups will be displayed so that you can select who you want to send that message to. However, these features may be little used by older people as their main goal is to talk directly to their family or friends.
Web testing – The web version is the simplest of all, you will first have to sign in with a Google account and then ask for a phone number that will have to be verified by a code that will be received by SMS to the phone. Once the verification is complete, in this version, we can only make individual video calls; that is, group calls cannot be made. To be able to make the video calls you have to give permissions to the browser so that you can use the camera and microphone of the computer, if you do not have a camera you can make a call without video.
Next, you will show an image that explains how to start a step-by-step video call:
In this section we will measure the ease with which the user can use the application to achieve a specific objective, in this case is to be able to communicate with another person through a videocall.
The application is very easy to use, it has a simple and friendly interface, it consists of a top half that works with the front camera of the device, a couple of buttons, a search engine and a list of contacts, which works in the same way as the agenda application that the mobile has, facilitating its use to the elderly since they may already be familiar with the features of a contact book.
All this leads this app to be easy to use, costing the user very little effort to start using it. This ease in learning usage also translates to the ease of remembering how it is used if at some point you decide to uninstall the application for a while. In any case, the product itself provides some user manuals in the help section in case there is any doubt to the user, although they will be used few times.
As for the effectiveness of the app, it can be said that it is highly effective because after entering the phone number to be used, you will be able to access all the functions that it provides and start making calls to any contact that has Google Duo installed.
About portability, as its own developers emphasize, Google Duo works on Smartphones and tablets, whether Android or IOS, as well as working on a computer using a web browser.
Taking into account the tests carried out and the analysis of each of the criteria it can be said that the product has a sufficiently good usability in terms of achieving the goal of making video calls together with the elderly, since it works in the same way as when you want to call a family member.
In this section, different criteria will be applied to assess whether the application can be used regardless of the capabilities of the user.
Cognitive Accessibility – As for images and icons all of them have a description that facilitates their understanding and, in addition, they are a reasonable size so that they can be correctly identified. Note that the description is the same size as the button icon.
Accessibility for people with reduced vision – The app has a settings section where you can only change the theme, i.e. you can change the white background with black letters to black background with white letters; however, this option is only available on Android devices that have been used. The font size cannot be changed so depending on the screen dimensions of the device it is possible that the words may be difficult to read, although it is possible to increase the font size in the overall settings of the device, making increase the font in the app. To complete this accessibility section, it has been decided to do some tests with the screen reader systems available from Android and IOS devices. These tests have focused on checking the correct labeling of the icons and buttons available on Google Duo. Buttons have been labeled well on all devices where the screen reader has been used, both with Android Voice Assistant and IOS Voice Over, although the last one does not report that pressing the "more options" button opens a window in the form of a drop-down, while Voice Assistant does.
Accessibility for people with hearing impairments – People with hearing impairments can use the app without any problem because, although at the time a call is received the device emits a sound, at that point it also starts to vibrate. In addition, as the application has a good video quality it is possible to communicate using sign language without any problem.
In this section we will study whether the application is functioning correctly and has no critical failures that prevent or hinder its use.
During the trial period of the application, it has not presented any outstanding or critical malfunctions in its operation.
Privacy and security
Generally speaking Google Duo works properly, there has been no fault other than those that usually occur whenever an internet connection is used as a means of communication, such as a decrease in image quality or some phrase that is choppy. It is a very stable app and has a quality that places it at the level of other products that allow video calls, becoming a viable alternative to them. In addition, this application can greatly help older people who cannot leave their homes, or who live far from their relatives to be able to see each other more often, especially considering the situation that is currently being lived, such as confinement because of COVID-19.
One of the strengths that the app has is that to be able to use it is not mandatory to create or have any email account, all that is needed is to provide a phone number and, from that moment you can start making video calls with any of the contacts that are in the contact list. Another of the strengths is that it is one of the few applications that allows you to make video calls with more than eight participants and besides that you do not need an email account since, usually the applications that allow you to make video calls with more than four people need to register with an email in them.
Finally, it should be noted that it can be used by Wi-Fi connection or mobile data, although it is highly recommended to use it when you have a Wi-Fi connection since Google Duo has a high data spend with an average of 1.63GB an hour.
- Only the phone number is required to use it.
- It is a very easy to use application.
- The quality of the calls is quite good.
- All icons that the app has have a description.
- Works perfectly with screen reader systems.
- It is totally free.
- It would be interesting to add the group call option in the web version.
- You could consider adding an option to resize the font.
- It would be interesting to add an option that allows you to change the theme in your iOS version.
- You could consider trying to reduce data consumption.