(Pocket-lint) - In case you didn't know, Google Duo is one of the best free group video calling apps around. It basically works just like WhatsApp calling, but instead of enabling you to group call four people, it can do up to 12 instead. 

That means it's ideal for most small groups, although group calling doesn't seem to work in the browser-based app, so practically-speaking it's really for iOS and Android. 

Duo's product manager Dave Citron has announced a bunch of improvements to the product which is really the consumer equivalent of Google Meet

Google says that over 10 million new people are signing up for Duo every week at the moment and in many countries, minutes used have increased by more than 10 times. Group calling has gone up eight times over the last month. 

Citron says that "in the coming weeks we plan to increase participants even further" for group calling, meaning it can be more of a competitor to the fast-rising Zoom for most group chats. 

The app is introducing out a new video codec technology to improve video call quality even if you're on a poor connection 

A new photo feature will also enable you to quickly snap a side-by-side image you can save to your camera roll - great if you're calling someone on their birthday. You can do this on phones, tablets and Chromebooks. The image is shared with everyone on the call. 

Duo already enables you to send voice or video messages when you're unable to call or the other person is unavailable. You'll also now be able to save these instead of having them expire after a day.

Writing by Dan Grabham.