Google has started offering free voice calls through its Home smart speakers to UK landlines and mobile phones, bringing it in line with US offerings.
Following an update rolling out this week, Google’s Home and Home Mini smart speakers will be able to place calls to ordinary UK numbers over its wifi connection, for hands-free phone calls. It doesn’t need a mobile phone to work, unlike some rival systems.
Google Assistant will be able to call any number in your Google Contacts, as well as millions of businesses. Assistant is able to recognise the voice of up to six different users, giving them access to their own personalised contacts, meaning a command to “call mum” should call the right mother.
To start a voice call users say, “Hey Google, call”, followed by the recipients name. Users will also be able to set up a caller ID for their Home voice calls to make their mobile phone number if they wish.
The feature was announced at Google’s I/O developer conference in 2017 before launching in the US in August. Google Assistant has also been able to place calls on an Android smartphone via voice, but using the smartphone’s mobile phone contract rather than Google’s free calling service. Rivals such as Amazon’s Alexa have supported voice calling for months, but only via the internet to an app on a smartphone, not to regular landline or mobile phone numbers in the UK.
Apple’s HomePod is capable of acting as a hands-free speaker for the owner’s iPhone, but cannot place voice calls on its own.
Google, Amazon and now Apple, after its recent launch of the HomePod, are locked in a battle for voice control in the home. The big technology companies are betting on voice being the future of computer interaction and are using smart speakers as a way to secure a position within consumer homes
, rolling out improved features and value-added services as a way to entice users.