Android itself may be open source and ready for any mobile device maker to use, but the Google apps are a whole different story. If you want the Play Store on the phones you make, then you need to play ball with Google – and, among other things, agree to preinstall a certain list of apps. This changes from time to time, and come December 1 it will change once more.
From that point on, Google Duo will become a mandatory preinstall for Android phones, replacing Hangouts in that role. Hangouts will be an optional preinstall, meaning some manufacturers may choose to ship it with their devices, but most probably won’t. On the other hand, this means Duo will come preinstalled on every single Android handset released after December 1. So those market share gains it’s made already are only going to get bigger.
Obviously this doesn’t mean Hangouts is dead per se, but unbundling it from the mandatory Google apps package is yet another step in the search giant’s strategy of making this a business communications platform of sorts – and not a consumer-oriented product. When it comes to messaging, that role now goes to Allo, Google’s umpteenth effort in this space, and yet another try at competing with Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Messenger. Oddly though, Allo is not part of the aforementioned Google apps list, at least not yet.