Google is rolling out a long-awaited feature for its Google Home smart speaker today: voice calling. The company just announced that Home users in the US and Canada will very soon be able to call people in their contacts and local businesses using their voice and the signature “OK Google” command. That makes it more flexible than what Amazon is doing with Alexa / Echo-to-Echo calls and messaging. But you can’t call another Google Home from yours or answer calls with it; only outgoing calls work right now.
Voice calling is completely free so long as the call recipient is in the US or Canada. It works over Wi-Fi, so it doesn’t use your smartphone plan minutes. In fact, Google Home’s hands-free calling is separate from your smartphone altogether. And that leads us to the annoying part: unless you’re a Google Voice or Project Fi user, people you’re calling won’t see your actual number when the incoming call pops up. Instead, it’ll show as “unknown” or “no caller ID” — and who in their right mind ever answers those calls? Google Voice and Fi customers can tie their number to Home right away to avoid looking like a spammer, and Google says it’ll offer a better solution for everyone else by the end of this year.
The hands-free calling update for Google Home should start making its way out over the coming days in the United States and Canada. Google Home is also available in Australia, France, Germany, and the UK, but hands-free calling isn’t yet supported in those regions. Google has also recently opened up a preview program that allows Home owners to test out new and upcoming features before they’re available to everyone.