IMO Vs. Duo: Google’s Expanded Platform Is a Better Social Video Experience

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IMO vs. Duo: which mobile video chat app is better?

If you can’t get what you want, it’s best to get what you need.

That’s how we’re settling the IMO vs. Duo debate. Neither video calling platform represents the best of what mobile video conferencing has to offer, but Duo does a better job of delivering the basics. The verdict is based on IMO’s grand–but failed–vision, and Google Duo’s (much-needed) recent upgrades.

Indeed, the services are trending in opposite directions. Duo has emerged from years of Google fussing over its video calling offerings to become a default Android service that can (finally!) deliver group calls in reliable HD simplicity. IMO, on the other hand, began life as a unique all-in-one instant messaging hub, only to have its connections stripped and its best features better executed elsewhere.

A word of caution: despite proclaiming a Duo a clear winner here, we doubt either service would emerge victorious from a comparison to big-name apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and FaceTime.

IMO Still Has Ads and Premium Subscriptions

IMO’s revenue model dooms it to failure in this comparison before we even get to the performance and features of either app. When the most popular smartphone video chat platforms–WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Facetime, to name the biggest–are giving their services away for free, IMO is still clogging its app with ads and requests for you to upgrade to a premium subscription. That subscription costs only a dollar per month and you get a generous amount of cloud storage space in return, but who wants to pay anything (not to mention hand over their credit card details), when they can have the same standard of service downloaded to their phone for free within seconds.

The IMO video calling platform offers group calls, social groups, animated stickers, and a collated stories function.

If you’re still interested despite the paid-subscription anachronism, then you’ll be pleased to know IMO does have some positive qualities–even if they’re not entirely redeeming. The IMO video calling platform offers group calls, social groups, animated stickers, and a collated stories function you’ll be familiar with from services such as Snapchat.

Screenshot of IMO video chat appAnd familiarity is the second problem with IMO. Everything here exists somewhere else, where it is generally presented with more style. The video calling experience, too, is rather uninspired. The chat windows sit atop a plain black background and there’s little in the way of features to move the conversation beyond talking heads.

When IMO was launched, it was an aggregator-type service that made it possible to access popular instant-messaging platforms like AIM, Skype, and Facebook all in one place. That vision didn’t survive when companies like Skype began blocking IMO from connecting to their service, and over the years IMO has struggled to maintain a point of differentiation as it refocuses on its own network rather than merely linking to third parties.

It was recently expanded to include a desktop app but, again, most services offer that now, and many, like Google Duo, do it better.

Google Duo Now Has Group Video Calls

That fact that Duo does it better than IMO isn’t saying much, as Duo’s desktop version fails to impress when compared to the full range of features packed into more business-focused platforms. Still, it does a better job of expanding the mobile version into something that takes advantage of the extra territory of a big screen.

Duo’s live preview feature displays an incoming caller before a call is answered.

The desktop app is far from the most impressive of Duo’s recent improvements. In May this year, the platform finally expanded from its strict one-on-one (hence the name Duo) video calling to accommodate groups of up to eight. That number lags well behind the 50 that Facebook Messenger (our personal favorite for smartphone calls) offers, or the 32 participants that FaceTime can now handle, but it is more than WhatsApps’ four. And it’s likely that the ability to include eight people on a call will be enough to accommodate your social needs, making Duo worthy of serious consideration for the first time since its inception.

Screenshot of Google Duo video calling app in useDuo’s live preview feature, which displays an incoming caller before a call is answered, is still something of a gimmick, but the rest of the app provides high-quality, reliable video calls in a more thoughtful presentation than IMO can muster.

We still think Messenger and WhatsApp, and even FaceTime as well, offer more rounded experiences than Duo, but Google’s flagship video chat app has the goods to easily ward off any challenge from IMO.

IMO Vs. Duo: The Verdict

IMO’s ambition is, or was, far greater than Duo’s. The unique initial promise of an agnostic central messaging hub was a great idea, but one that was ultimately doomed by lack of interest from third parties like Skype and WhatsApp. The demise of that promise has left IMO as a social service without a standout feature–and with a sadly outdated revenue model. That makes it vulnerable when pitted against better-supported and more polished products like Duo.

We recommend the Google platform if you must choose between IMO and Duo.

While the expanded Duo still falls behind other mobile video chat apps, it does have enough capacity for all your social needs and offers a better user experience than IMO. When it comes to IMO vs. Duo, we recommend the Google platform if you must choose between these two, but if you don’t take a look at what stronger apps like Messenger have to offer before making a final choice, you are doing yourself–and your social network–a disservice.

Note that while this site is sponsored by Logitech, reviews contain the writer’s own opinions and are not influenced by the views of our sponsor.

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