As the battle for voice control in the home intensifies, Google is now offering free voice calls through its Home smart speakers in the UK. A software update that rolls out this week will add the new feature automatically into your Google Home and Google Mini smart speaker.
The ability to make phone calls by simply asking Google is certainly one of the many interesting features of Google Home devices. The feature was announced at Google’s I/O developer conference in May 2017 and introduced in the US in August. Now UK becomes the second market to get the feature.
Following a software update, rolling out to users in the UK this week, Google’s Home and Home Mini smart speakers will be able to place calls to ordinary UK numbers using your home Wi-Fi internet – without paying a penny. It doesn’t need a mobile phone to work. However, you won't be able to place free calls to premium-rate or international numbers.
Google Assistant will be able to call any number in your Google Contacts or your phone (when connected). It can also find the number for "millions" of businesses across the UK. So phoning your local pharmacy, mechanic or pizzeria should be a breeze. If you have multiple people in your household, Assistant is also capable of recognising up to six individual voices. This gives each user access to their own personalised contacts, meaning a command to “call mom” should call the right mother. All you have to do is say “Ok Google, call Mom”.
If you’re new to Google Home, your device will tell you to set up voice calling. Just got to Home App on your phone and verify your phone number. Once you verify your phone number, you’ll get a confirmation SMS. You can now make hands-free, FREE calls over Wi-Fi, without needing your phone. The client, however, will see your registered phone number in the Caller ID. You can also make free calls without setting up the Caller ID. This might however be a pain - especially if you're trying to call grandma - as your Home speaker will show up as an unknown or private number.
Google Assistant's top-notch rival in the field, Amazon’s Alexa have supported voice calling for months, but only between Echo devices (or a smartphone with the Alexa app installed). The recently launched Apple HomePod is also capable of placing hands-free calls for the owner’s iPhone, but cannot place voice calls on its own. Google's implementation is, therefore, different from all of them and drastically more useful.
As UK celebrates Mother’s Day on March 11, Google is currently running a promotion on the Google Home Mini. You get £10-off on the device until March 12, at Google Store, Currys PC World, John Lewis, Argos and a bunch of other retailers. Few links below.
The bigger and better, Google Home, meanwhile costs £129.