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Google Duo adds four new features to help ease us through lockdown

Stay-at-home orders prompted by the coronavirus pandemic have seen video-calling numbers go through the roof.

Whether with family, friends, or co-workers, more people than ever have been firing up their chat app of choice as a way to connect with others while we’re prevented from meeting in person.

Google’s Duo is clearly one of the beneficiaries of this uptick in video calls, with the company revealing that the cross-platform app has received 10 million new sign-ups in just the last few weeks.

Keen to capitalize on the extra interest, Duo group product manager Dave Citron this week unveiled four new features to take the video-call experience up a notch.

Here’s what’s happening:

Improved quality and reliability

In the coming week, Duo is introducing a new video codec technology to improve the quality and reliability of video calls. This includes on very low-bandwidth connections that can often be a major challenge not only for video chat stability, but for our patience, too.

Bigger groups

The challenges created by the pandemic have prompted a big rise in the number of group calls, with Duo seeing an eightfold rise in the past four weeks alone. The good news is that the app has just increased the group size from eight participants to 12, and there are plans for even greater expansion in the coming weeks.

New photo feature

“The way we get together has changed, but we’re still making memories, whether it’s watching someone blow out their birthday candles on a video call, or video chatting with friends while cooking dinner,” Citron says in a post outlining the new features. To capture those memories during a Duo video call, a new feature lets you quickly take a photo together and share it automatically with everyone on the call. At launch, it only works with two-person calls on smartphones, but the feature will soon work for group calls and additional devices, too.

Save personal messages

A popular Duo feature is the ability to send personalized video and voice messages when you can’t call. In recent weeks, the Duo community has been sending 180% more messages than before, with a remarkable 800% increase in regions hit hardest by social distancing. In these times, such messages can mean a lot to the recipient — especially the sweeter ones. With that in mind, Duo will soon let you save those messages for posterity instead of having them expire after 24 hours.

Google Duo made it onto Digital Trends’ recently updated list of the top video chat apps for Android and iOS. Check out the article to see which one we rated the best.

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