Google Assistant Can Accept Incoming Calls on Smart Speakers in Australia, Turning Them into Landline Phones
Google Assistant-enabled smart speakers and displays can detect and answer calls to people’s mobile phones, but only for Telstra subscribers in Australia. Every Google Home and Nest device has been able to make outgoing calls for a long time, but this is a first for the other direction. The new option augments connected phone numbers with features similar to Google’s Duo audio and video communication platform and arguably lets the smart speaker mimic the increasingly rare landline phone.
Telstra started allowing customers to connect their phone numbers to Google Assistant-enabled smart speakers last year. This allowed users to make calls with their device from their phone number, but any incoming calls still went straight to the phone. The customer can now arrange for up to ten Google Assistant-powered smart speakers and displays to alert them about an incoming call. Like when someone calls through Google Duo, the voice assistant tells the customer who is calling and plays a ringtone to announce the call, and the recipient can decide whether to accept by voice command or by tapping on the device.
Telstra is one of the largest telecom providers in the country and has been sending texts like this one posted on Reddit to let subscribers know about the new option. It’s fitting that Google would bring this option to Australia first and work with Telstra to release, considering the context of Australia’s smart speaker market. While Amazon is often the quarterly winner in global smart speaker sales outside of China, Google devices took a dominant early lead in Australia last year, according to Voicebot’s research. That was true even as the percentage of the country that owned at least one smart speaker leapt past the U.S.
The new feature may be geographically limited, but it continues Google’s frequent upgrades and additions to Google Assistant’s communications features this year. In July, Google added a voice-enabled speed dial feature to Google Assistant called household contacts that allows anyone on a Google account for a smart speaker or smart display to call a limited list of people with a single voice request or tap on a smart display screen, opening the speed dial to people in the home who aren’t the official account holder.
The setup and any adjustments for the incoming calls feature are all made within the Google Home app. Users can change which devices ring and set a schedule for when they won’t ring at all. Those options and the connection to a mobile number don’t disguise the fact that the feature turns Google smart speakers into more advanced and customizable landline phones. Homes without landline phones are becoming more common as mobile phones largely obviate the need for one on a daily basis. Turning a smart speaker into one means, bringing back the negative aspects of landlines along with the positive. Not missing a call because your phone is in another room on silent or just off is great. The annoyance of a phone ringing all over the home for somebody else is less pleasing since they will ring even if the recipient isn’t home. Plus, anyone could reject the call meant for you, although that won’t stop the call coming to your mobile device.