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Forget Zoom, Google Duo is about to get four big upgrades

Your friends and colleagues might be congregating on Zoom and Houseparty these days, but Google Duo is determined not to be left in the dust.

Google has just unveiled four new features that will roll out to Duo users this week. Among the changes coming with this update is the new ‘take a photo’ feature.

With the tap of a button, users can now take snapshots from a call to capture important moments from miles away. The main difference between Duo’s photo feature and other video calling apps is that Duo automatically composites both cameras side-by-side, so you won’t just see yourself lurking in the corner the way you would if you used your phone’s screenshot tool to capture the moment.

Related: How to set up Google Duo on smart displays for video and audio calls

One of Duo’s more unique features is the video and voice messages you can leave when your friends can’t come to the phone. According to Google, Duo has experienced an 800% increase in messages left in regions particularly impacted by social distancing. In response to this, Google is adding the option to automatically save messages in the app instead of watching them expire after 24 hours so you can look back at your most meaningful messages.

Google has also upped its group call capacity from eight participants to 12 (with plans to increase this further in the future) and introduced new AOMedia Video 1 video codec technology to improve video call quality and reliability for users, even on low bandwidth connections.

According to Google Duo Group Project Manager Dave Citron, over 10 million new users sign up to Duo every week and, in many countries, call minutes have increased by more than 10-fold in recent weeks.

While Duo’s increase isn’t quite as impressive as Zoom’s growth over the past few months – Zoom leaped from 10 million daily meeting participants in December to the more than 200 million recorded in March – it also isn’t as controversial.

Zoom has been the target of criticism since the end of March when Motherboard reported that the video calling app was sending data to Facebook without asking for user consent.

Related: The best ways to video chat from Windows, Mac, iPhone or Android

We’ll have to wait and see if these new Duo features will be enough to convince Zoom users to make the leap to Google’s end-to-end encrypted group calling app.

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