The mobile messaging scene is jam-packed with competition, but that doesn’t stop small startups — or giant mega-corporations — from trying to capture a slice of that pie. Google’s Allo has been one such attempt that has stumbled along since its release in September 2016, but it does now have a web client which expands its capabilities.
So how do you go about using such a feature? The first step is to make sure you have Allo installed on your Android smart device. Although the app itself is available on iOS, there is no iOS web client compatibility as of yet.
Once installed, you need to set up Allo like you would any other chat app. Unlike Facebook accounts on Messenger or a variety of Google services, Allo does not make use of your Google account, so it cannot just grab information you already entered somewhere else before. You need to confirm your device’s phone number, take a profile picture of yourself, and give Allo permission to access a number of different features on your device — contact lists, media, etc.
You then need to link Allo with your browser by heading to allo.google.com/web. If you are using the Chrome browser, you will be greeted with a QR code and further instructions. If not, then you need to load up Chrome because one of the limiting factors of Allo’s new web client is that it only works with Google’s browser. Edge, Firefox, Safari, and Opera are all unsupported at this time.
With Chrome open to the correct page, you then need to open the Allo app on your phone, navigate through the menu to “Allow for web” and point your device’s camera at the QR code. From there, it will be automatically linked to your phone once you have confirmed it through a code via SMS.
Once your devices are linked, you have options for everything in your browser as you do on your phone. You can start conversations with those who have Allo installed, share images, use stickers, and ask the Google Assistant questions.
You can customize the experience a little through the settings menu, though current options only include playing sounds upon sending and receiving messages; desktop notifications on or off, and whether you want message previews to be seen or not.
There are some keyboard shortcuts you can utilize in the web client, which is a functionality that is not possible on touchscreen devices. Really though, that does little but speed up certain functions like attaching files and switching between conversations. It could make the experience somewhat mouse-free, but a major attraction of the web client is that you can mouse around on it while you are working or doing something else on your PC.
As handy as a few of Allo’s web client features are though, it is important to note that it does have some limitations. You can only use it in a single tab at a time, so you won’t be able to have multiple conversations open in different tabs or windows at once. It also requires your phone to be on and connected to the internet. If it is not, you will lose access to the web client as it tries in vain to find its twinned device.
There is also the aforementioned lack of support for iOS devices on the web client and the lack of browser compatibility. Google’s Assistant lacks third-party app support on the web client too, according to Ars Technica.
Although a web client is a nice addition for Allo and certainly broadens its accessibility and functionality, it does not go very far in addressing the feature disparity between Google’s service and some of its competitors. It has yet to offer much, if anything, that would draw away potential users from contemporaries like WhatsApp or Signal.
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