Google Home is getting a feature that may be a final nail in the coffin for landlines and home phones for good: it can now make phone calls.
The feature was announced back at Google I/O in May, and is being enabled through an update for users in the US and Canada starting today. What makes voice calling on the Google Home stand out from the feature Amazon introduced with the Echo is that Google Home can also call landlines and businesses numbers, and doesn’t require an existing cell phone number to setup.
Once the feature is enabled, the experience of dialing and calling a number on the Google Home is similar to using a landline or home phone – except you simply use your voice to do it. For those who have their contacts synced to their Google account and set up with Google Home, those contacts can be dialed simply by saying their names. If you know a number offhand, you can simply tell Google Home to dial the full number. The calling feature also supports multi users as long as they have linked their voice and contacts; though if another user has not linked their voice profile, then everyone can access the personal contacts of the first user who linked their Google Account. Calling business numbers can be just as simple, as you can simply utilize Google Home’s location services and say “Okay Google, call the nearest pizza place.” All domestic calls are free, but international calls are only available for Google Fi users or those with Google Voice (and charges vary depending on region).
While this is admittedly a much better feature-set than what Amazon offers for the Echo, there are a few limitations. As we mentioned, there is no need to use your phone to setup, as Google Home does not require it’s own phone number – mostly because it simply doesn’t need one. Google is not currently offering the ability to link up your personal phone number to Google Home, and you also cannot receive inbound calls on the device either. Google’s stance on the inbound call matter is a bit vague, as they say state “We’re starting with outgoing calls, and we don’t have additional details to share regarding inbound calls”. This means that when you make a call using your Google Home, people on the receiving end of the call will see a No Caller ID or Unknown number calling them. In an effort to combat this, Google is allowing Project Fi and Google Voice users to import their numbers to allow that number to display to others when you make a call (but you still cannot dial that number and receive an inbound call). Google says they are working on integrating the ability to link your phone number to Google Home, but that capability won’t be available until the end of this year. And as far as other limitations go, Google Home – much like Amazon Echo devices – cannot dial 911 to make calls during emergencies (though like the Echo, perhaps that won’t be totally true).
But when Google does enable some of these features, Google Home will become a full-fledged home phone/landline replacement (which may be a good thing.) Then again, it currently may be a good enough replacement for many households. Amazon meanwhile has not said if they will introduce an update to their calling feature to allow Alexa devices to call landlines and business numbers.
The feature is slowly rolling out and all Google Home users should see the feature enabled by the end of the week.
Are you excited for Google Home voice calling? Let us know in the comments below!