Truecaller announced a number of additions to its popular caller ID and crowdsourced phone directory app today — but one upcoming feature in particular stood out from the rest.
Duo was built with a single purpose in mind and, free from bloat, its promise is to be a fast and fluid alternative to other video-calling apps out there — a single tap of a button connects you with friends. The company recently announced that it was adding audio-calling to the mix too, for when video-calling isn’t an option due to bandwidth limitations.
On a related note, if you’re confused about Google’s messaging app strategy, well, you’re not the only one, as the company now offers Duo, Allo, Hangouts, and Messenger. Each app sports distinctive features, but nonetheless they all serve the same core function — to connect friends with friends.
Google hasn’t publicly announced an API to integrate Duo with third-party apps before now, but in the coming months Truecaller’s Android and iOS app will sport a dedicated Duo button, letting Truecaller users access Duo’s video-calling smarts without leaving the Truecaller app.
“Video calling should work for everybody, regardless of what platform they are on,” explained Google Duo head Amit Fulay, in a statement. “Our aim is to make video calling simple, fast, and available to everyone. With this Truecaller integration, we’re able to bring a better video calling experience to millions of new users.”
VentureBeat has reached out to both Truecaller and Google for more information on this so-called “strategic agreement,” and whether we can expect Duo to be integrated into any other third-party services in the future. We will update here if or when we hear back.
If nothing else, the Truecaller tie-up gives some insight into the kinds of things Google is thinking about to bring its communication smarts to millions more users. Facebook has all but won the mobile messaging battle, with Facebook, Messenger, and WhatsApp now used by billions of people globally. But if Google can get enough partners on board, well, it could reclaim at least some ground.
Truecaller: A primer
If you’re new to Truecaller, the Swedish startup was founded in 2009 and since built a solid reputation for its crowdsourced approach to helping users flag rogue callers, identify unknown numbers, and block those deemed as “spam.” Besides its eponymous Truecaller app, which claims more than 250 million downloads, the company previously launched a separate Truedialer app on Android and Windows Phone, one that automatically adds names and photos to unknown numbers in your call history. But last March, Truecaller announced it was phasing out the Truedialer app and bringing the dialer into the main Truecaller experience on Android.
Given the differing permissions available through Android and iOS historically, the Truecaller app has typically been more functional on Android than on iOS, but last September Truecaller integrated with Apple’s CallKit to thwart spam calls on iPhone, bringing it closer to the Android incarnation.
But alongside the Google Duo news today, Truecaller announced a triumvirate of updates to its Android app that serve to remind us of key permission differences between Google and Apple’s respective mobile operating systems.
Through the Truecaller Android app, users will now be able to identify rogue SMS messages in addition to calls, meaning they can filter out those pesky spam texts. Additionally, the Truecaller app will now support flash messaging, which are basically pre-defined messages anyone can send to a friend or relative — they pop up on a smartphone’s screen rather than arrive in an inbox.
Truecaller has always been big in India, and today it serves as the company’s biggest market. With that in mind, Truecaller is throwing its hat into the mobile payments ring with the launch of Truecaller Pay in India, enabled by a new partnership with ICICI Bank, one of the country’s biggest financial service providers. This means that Android users will be able to send and receive money directly through the Truecaller app.
Above: Truecaller Pay
The upshot of all this is that Truecaller is becoming an all-singing, all-dancing beast of an app that is evolving way beyond its original purpose, which was to facilitate the blocking of unwanted callers.
In many ways, Truecaller has to evolve to become more of a communications powerhouse. With almost $100 million in funding, the company needs to become more “sticky” to keep users in-app as much as possible. And with the U.S. forging ahead to block unwanted callers at a network level, this negates the need for users to install apps such as Truecaller. With these latest suite of new tools, it’s almost as though the core spam-blocking and caller ID features are being pushed to the periphery to make way for a new type of messaging app.
“From the very beginning we have worked relentlessly to build a product that helps simplify communications for consumers across the globe, and help them address important needs such knowing the identity of those calling, and blocking unwanted numbers,” said Truecaller cofounder Nami Zarringhalam. “With valuable partners like Google, we are excited to take the next step in our journey, bringing all your mobile communications and transactions under one roof and giving you the safest, most efficient, and most convenient experience possible without having to switch back and forth.”