Despite mixed reviews, Google Allo has more than a million downloads in 3 days

Julian Chokkattu
Despite mixed reviews, Google Allo has more than a million downloads in 3 days
Google Allo, the messaging app that features an AI Google Assistant, is the number one app on the Play Store. The app has drawn mixed reviews, which criticize a lack of default end-to-end encryption, but praise the Assistant's smarts.

Google’s newest messaging app, Allo, has hit the top of the Play Store charts in its third day of existence with more than a million downloads.

The app has received mixed reviews, with many praising the smarts of the artificially intelligent Assistant, but slamming the decision to not include default end-to-end encryption, and also criticizing the lack of other messaging features such as a web client.

Related: Hands-on: Google Allo

According to the Google Play Store, Allo has a 4.2 rating out of 5 for its current version, but still has managed to grab between a million and 5 million downloads. Duo managed to get more than 5 million downloads within a week — Allo’s performance isn’t doing too bad in comparison, but we’ll have to take another look next week to provide clearer results.

Over on iOS, Apple doesn’t show the number of app downloads, but Allo sits at number 15 on the top free apps chart on the App Store, just above WhatsApp. In Apple land, the app has a rating of 3.5 out of 5 for its current version.

Allo is an instant messaging app akin to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. You sign up with your number, but that means your conversations are only synced to your device — you can’t access them when downloading the app via tablet, and there’s also no web client yet so you’re limited to messaging on the mobile app.

Related: Tired of Google Play? Check out these alternative Android app stores

The app only lets you message other Allo users, but an SMS relay lets you send a text to invite others to the service. In terms of messaging features, Allo is well designed, offering a selection of curated stickers, scribbling on photos, and other modes of expression including making your text larger and smaller.

But the real draw of Allo is Google Assistant, which is still in “Preview Edition.” It’s an artificially intelligent bot that lets you run Google searches, play games, set reminders, and more. It’s humanized, so you can have conversations with Assistant, and the more you use it the more its skills improve.

The Assistant also reads and stores all your messages — that helps it provide Smart Replies contextually tuned to what you’re likely to say. Smart Reply makes responding with short messages faster by eliminating the need to type. For example, Assistant can read images — if someone sends a picture of a dog, you’ll get Smart Reply options like, “aww,” “cute dog,” and more. The more you use Allo, the more you’ll get results that match what you’re likely to say.

While Smart Replies can be useful, storing message data has irked privacy-minded folks like Edward Snowden. Google initially said messages would be stored temporarily, but now has backtracked from that decision, according to The Verge, because storing messages offers Assistant more data to provide better Smart Replies.

That also means Allo is privy to requests from law enforcement, and Google will be forced to give user data up. A user will thus have to delete their conversations if so inclined, but the same could be said for apps like Facebook Messenger. Google did not respond to requests for comment.

Still, Google’s Allo offers an Incognito Chats mode that utilizes end-to-end encryption, meaning no one will be able to access the message other than the sender and receiver. The downside here is that Assistant will not be accessible in these chats. Facebook has implemented a similar feature, called Secret Conversations, in Messenger.

The Assistant in Allo is still in preview mode, and we’re expecting to see more features, like third-party integration, at Google’s Oct. 4 event. Google is unveiling a new phone, as well as various other “made by Google” hardware offerings, including Google Home.