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May 19, 2017

Google Home calling: How does it work and when will it be ready?

by John_A

Google just made Google Home a more compelling rival to Echo.

Earlier this month, Amazon launched an Alexa calling service, giving Echo users the ability to phone other Echo users and users of the Alexa app. And if you have the new Echo Show, you can even do video calls. Amazon basically made its Echo lineup far superior to Google Home in terms of communication functionality, but now, mere weeks later, Google is leveling the playing field with a “hands-free calling” feature.

Here’s everything you need to know about calling with Google Home, including how it works and when the feature will be available.

  • Move over, Siri: Google Assistant is officially coming to iPhone
  • Google Lens brings super powers to your phone camera
  • Google Home can now make hands-free phone calls like Amazon Echo
  • Google Home can now give you visual responses on phones and Chromecast

How do you make a call on Google Home?

During Google I/O 2017, when Google announced the “hands-free calling” feature, executives said all you have to do is ask Google Home to make a call, and it’ll connect you. When we asked Google how it works, we were told: “There’s actually no setup required, call anyone for free, including personal contacts or local businesses, and even dial out with your personal number when we detect your voice.”

How does Google Home calling work?

Google’s Product and Engineering teams are still hammering out the details of the calling feature before it’s rolled out to the public, so we do not have a full understanding yet of how it works. When we asked Google support, they neglected to explain how the feature works and said they didn’t want to give us any false information. So, as of right now, there’s not much we can tell you either.

However, Amazon recently rolled out a similar calling feature for its Echo devices – and it requires a quick setup process:

  • You need to Alexa app on your smartphone, and then with the app, you need to confirm your name and phone number as well as enable access to your contacts list. From there, tap the chat bubble at the bottom, and then tap the figure in the upper-right hand corner. Doing so will show a list of your contacts who have the Alexa app or an Echo and are available to call. Tap on a contact to send a call or message.

So, if we had to guess, the Home app on your smartphone will also need to verify your name and phone number and enable access to your contacts before it can let you start placing calls on Google Home, though that’s just speculation. After all, Google said it supports calling out with a private number, by default, and it will also provide the option to link your mobile number to Google Assistant.

If you link your number, Google said it will use it when Home recognise your voice (and thus whomever you call will know the call is coming from you, whereas with a private number, they won’t know). Multiple people can connect to one Google Home and call their own personal contacts, as Google Home can distinguish your voice from others. Go here to learn how to set up multiple users on Home.

Who can you call with Google Home?

You can call any landline or mobile number in the US and Canada completely free, though calls to 911 or 1-900 numbers are not supported on. There’s no word yet on whether this feature will come to the UK, though we suspect Google will eventually launch it in other countries. We will keep you posted as we learn more, so be sure to check back here for the latest details.

Also, with just your voice, you can call “millions of businesses” in the US and Google, thanks to built-in Google Search on Google Home. You can also call your own personal contacts, as long as your contacts are synced with your Google Account. So, you’ll be able to say “Hey Google, call Bob’s Pizza” or “Hey Google, call mom”. Go here to learn how to sync contacts with your Google account.

How much do calls cost?

Calls to the US and Canada are free.

When will Google Home calling be ready?

While at Google I/O 2017 in May, Google said it would roll out calling to all Google Home owners “over the coming months”.

Anything else you need to know?

Google said it will only support outbound calls at launch due to customer privacy, but it plans to add blocking “in the coming weeks”.

Want to know more?

Check out Google’s Support page for more details. Also, call 1-855-971-9121 (in the US) to speak to a Google Home support specialist if you need more more information on the “hands-free calling” feature. If you’re in the UK, call 0800 026 1217​.

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