Within a few days of Google sending out email invites to a limited audience for testing out its upcoming Reply app, it has been leaked online. Google's experimental division Area 120 has developed Reply in an attempt to extend the tech giant's contextual machine learning prowess to third-party messaging apps. Currently available only on Android, the app has been shown to offer reply suggestions which are based on factors like location, previous conversations, and general recommendations. The app claims that information from your phone is not stored for any other purposes.
The Reply app was leaked on APKMirror and Android users can download it here. You could also request official access to the app via this Google Docs form. We went hands-on with the app to check out what features it offers. Once installed on your phone, the app requires a Google ID for access (it works for Indian accounts). You can then give the app access to read notifications, check your calendar, and track location to offer contextual replies. As reported earlier, the app also offers other features like Do Not Disturb that mutes your phone when it knows you are driving, and unmutes it when it thinks you have received an urgent message.
According to our initial impressions of its functionality, Reply can offer basic replies to messages with a Yes/ No call to action - for instance, "Want to grab dinner?", location-based replies depending on your mode of transport - "How much time till you get here?", automated vacation responders, and detect keywords to assign urgency to messages - "Hi, are you working today?". The app claims that notification access is processed on the device and "deleted immediately." The Settings menu in the app allows users to enter their home and work addresses, automatic replies, and a Spam Filter.
As previously stated, the Reply app is initially expected to offer contextual replies on messaging apps including Hangouts, Facebook Messenger Lite, Slack, Skype, and Twitter DMs. A similar Smart Reply feature was spotted in Gboard's beta app version 6.9. This feature works with the Gboard keyboard in apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Allo, Hangouts, Android Messages, etc.