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Google Allo - smart messaging
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
What's it about?
GOOGLE ALLO - SMART MESSAGING is a smart messaging app/digital assistant that aims to make your life easier. Instead of typing in requests, you can simply speak them into your phone or tablet's microphone. Beyond performing things such as web searches, which you'd expect from a Google app, it can sign you up for subscription services and set alarms and timers. If you're bored, tell the app and it will offer to tell you a joke, a riddle, play a music video, or show you cat pictures. You can also get travel updates, play games, locate nearby restaurants, or translate words you don't recognize. The app learns from your actions and gives you the chance to tell it your favorite food, color, animal, and so on. As a messaging app, it lets you easily communicate with friends and offers possible replies to messages. Incognito mode, on the other hand, is encrypted (so Google doesn't access your messages) and erases the chats after a set amount of time. Users must select Incognito mode, as it's not the default.
Is it any good?
Aside from fun features, the Google Assistant within the app offers some convenience, but it can come at a pretty steep price -- sometimes too high. To really use Google Allo - smart messaging to its fullest potential, you have to give it an incredible amount of access to everything from your contact list to your web-surfing habits. Of course, since the app is made by Google, the company likely has access to most of this anyway, but it's still jarring to be asked for it up front. And as the app learns your habits, it asks even more invasive questions such as your morning routine, whether you're close to your family, and what makes you nostalgic. That may be too much for some people, which is understandable. But if you're willing to give up that privacy, the app is quite adept at supplying you with relevant information and distractions, and the artificial intelligence is only going to get better. Though its chat functionality adds nothing to a phone's default messaging (other than a few cute stickers and font changes), it does make Allo more of a hub for users. At this point, it seems like a lot of privacy to give up to avoid a few taps.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the concerns about giving companies and apps such as Google Allo - smart messaging permission to access their search histories and contacts list. Of course, kids shouldn't share personal information with strangers online, but what does it mean to give an app access to information and then store it?
Talk about Google Assistant and what it can do. Do you want a bot to complete conversations? Why, or why not?
For kids who love social networking and safe chatting
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.