How unfair expectations killed the Allo launch [OPINION]


allo-bullHype is a funny thing. It can lead to the success or the failure of a product. In the tech world, you live by the hype or your die by the hype. Google’s Allo is the latest product to fall victim to lofty expectations and hype. Allo is exactly what Google told us it would be back at I/O, but a lot of people are disappointed. They were expecting something that only exists in their minds.

Google has not had much luck in the messaging department. They’ve tried many different approaches, some more successful than others. For this reason, many Android users were cynical about Allo and Duo from the start. “Another messaging app? Why do we need more?” In the months following I/O the hype started to build, but Google didn’t share a lot of details about how Allo would work. That’s where the trouble started.

In case you didn’t know, everyone on the internet is an expert. Look no further than r/Android and you’ll find a bunch of Android experts. The lack of details about Allo led to a lot of speculation by these “experts.” The interesting thing about speculation on the internet is that when you hear the same speculation enough it starts to become real. Suddenly, some random person’s guess makes a lot of sense in your mind. “You know, that would be the logical thing for Google to do!” Fiction becomes fact.

allo-catMany Android users (myself included) expected Allo to be an iMessage competitor. Google never indicated that it would be like that. Android users desperately want something like iMessage. Since Google has failed at messaging so many times, many assumed that would be the direction they would go. You can’t apply your logic to the thinking of a giant company. Unfortunately, Allo isn’t about SMS at all. It’s about Google Assistant.

Google doesn’t get out of this situation without blame. They can’t control the fantasies of Android fans, but they can control the product they release. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what Android users have been asking for in a messaging app. Allo is a product that Google wants us to use, but a lot of people are having a hard time finding reasons to use it. What problems does Allo solve? What makes it better than Google’s previous messaging apps?

We made the mistake of expecting Google to fix the messaging mess. Allo was never intended to be the solution to those problems. It was built to get Google Search into your conversations. To make it easier for you to do Google searches and collect data. Ultimately, that is the reason behind most Google decisions. Android fans make the mistake of thinking they know what Google should do and then get upset when Google doesn’t do it. Google can’t control those expectations, but they can listen. Allo is a product in search of a reason to exist.

sloth-alloThe co-lead on the Google Allo team tweeted: All-in-one apps are not the future.” This really highlights the difference in thinking between Google and the users of Google products. A lot of people are in search of one app that can handle all of their messaging needs. For a while, it seemed like Hangouts was the answer. When Google killed merged SMS conversations in Hangouts, people assumed it was because of Allo. That logic made perfect sense, but it obviously wasn’t the way Google was thinking. 

There’s a reason why people often feel pressure from outside expectations. When a sports team fails to meet the expectations of fans it is seen as a disappointment. It doesn’t matter if those expectations were unreasonable. Many Android fans had unreasonable expectations for Allo. It’s not the end-all-be-all solution to Android messaging problems. It’s just a simple messaging app with Google baked in. You can argue that Google should have set their sights higher, but what we got is a perfectly good messaging app. Accept it for what it is or use something else.

Joe Fedewa
Ever since I flipped open my first phone I've been obsessed with the devices. I've dabbled in other platforms, but Android is where I feel most at home.

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