Google's Allo messaging app is gaining emojis and an easier way to access the Google Assistant.
Google’s Allo may be the youngest messaging app in the search giant’s family of six, but it’s quite possibly the sharpest. It features the Assistant, Google’s AI-powered tool that serves up restaurant recommendations, reminders, flight information, and more. It boasts Smart Reply, which suggests personalized responses to incoming messages. And starting today on Android and soon on iOS, it’s gaining a host of new features that will make Allo even smarter than it was before.
First up is new an improved GIF search function. Now, a new “smiley” icon in the app’s chat bar opens a carousel of selectable reactions. But if you can’t decide which one to use, Allo’s Lucky feature, which launched first in January, will choose one for you. Simply tap on a Smart Reply with the Lucky icon or type “@lucky” (without quotes), follow it with a phrase, and Lucky will share a random GIF to friends within earshot.
Need suggestions? Google says that “LMAO,” “wow,” and “I love you” are among the most used phrases with Lucky.
If you’d rather express your emotions with a little more nuance, animated emojis are joining the Allo fray. Once you’ve chosen an emoji, dragging it up and down animates it. And letting go of the Send button shares it to your waiting chat partners.
Also in tow with the new Allo is an easier way to pull up the Google Assistant. A new Assistant button in the Compose box pulls up Google’s all-knowing AI, at which point you can ask it questions about the weather, your agenda, historical factoids that will impress your friends, or pretty much anything else that happens to come to mind.
Google says one in every 12 messages in group chats is to the Google Assistant.
Google’s shown Allo a lot of love, recently. A major update added a monochrome theme, a landscape orientation, direct messages, and the ability to reply to messages directly from notifications on iOS and Android. And on smartphones running Android 7.1 Nougat, the app gained compatibility with the operating system’s split-screen mode.
And Google’s collaborated with third parties on Allo-branded marketing efforts. In October 2016, it teamed up with Netflix to release a Stranger Things sticker pack. And in December, it coincided the launch of animated Star Wars stickers with the release of Disney’s Rogue One.
An even bigger development might be right around the corner. Last week, Nick Fox, Google’s vice president of communications, tweeted out a screenshot of a desktop app for Allo. That’s telling — Allo only supports smartphones, and requires a telephone number, but that seems poised to change.