On September 28th, almost two months ago to the day, Allo co-lead Justin Uberti announced the app had achieved a staggering five-million downloads in just five days since its launch. It was impressive, though not exactly unexpected for a major Google app debut. Now, once at the top of the Play Store's app rankings, Allo sits below position #200, and shows few signs of momentum.
The app's download count remains at the 5,000,000-10,000,000 milestone it achieved back at the end of September, meaning that in over sixty days Allo has not managed to achieve again what it did in the first five it was available. That's not great news. Its sister product, video chat app Duo, has done considerably better: Duo has generally stabilized around the #100-150 ranking on the Play Store and broke past the 10,000,000 download mark (it has, however, been available longer). As of this writing, it sits over 70 positions above Allo on the overall Play Store top chart - #129 to Allo's #201.
On iOS, the picture is grimmer yet: Allo was last updated on the App Store around 2 weeks ago, in that time, it has received 13 new user ratings. Not 1300, not 130: thirteen. (To be fair, Google Duo isn't fairing a whole lot better there.) It has nearly 500 iOS ratings total, compared to well over 150,000 ratings on the Play Store. That would seem to make the multi-platform aspect of Allo's launch little more than symbolic - a commitment to a group of users that essentially doesn't exist.
Google Allo 2.0 was released at the end of last month with some sorely-needed features. Unfortunately, none of them seem to solve its intrinsic problems: a complete lack of multi-device support, no message backup, no support for alternate protocols like SMS or RCS, and no web or desktop client. This does follow in the model of some services like WhatsApp, but those have achieved the critical mass of users that makes foregoing certain features bearable. Allo does not have the luxury of dominance, even as Google goes as far as to advertise it on sacred ground: the search homepage.
There are those that say, once RCS messaging gets off and running, integration into Allo could make the app the go-to platform users had hoped it would be out of the gate (Hangouts SMS déjà vu, anyone?). Oh, and also a web client. That's a must. And multi-device support, certainly we're not giving up Hangouts without it, right? And cross-sync and backup - we need that. An easy way to video or voice chat would be handy, too.
And so, slowly but surely, it seems we're starting to just tell Google to build Hangouts all over again, something the Allo team must be absolutely loathe to do given that much of Allo's purpose seems to be to free Google of what it considers Hangouts' vestigial feature baggage. That makes the question of what's to be done with Allo not just one of responding to user demand, but of basic product philosophy: can Allo, a product that seems a true believer in its mobile-first zeal, be contorted into something more extensible, powerful, and flexible? And in doing so, will Google only see more users flee to platform-agnostic messaging services to escape the confusion?
Allo may have only been with us a couple of months, but that short time could hardly be imagined to have gone worse for the nascent messaging app, and Google has provided precious little indication that Allo's shortcomings - which often seemed framed as features - are going away any time soon.