Google Assistant-powered smart speakers have been long able to make phone calls. But that functionality was limited to outgoing calls only. You couldn't receive incoming calls through an Assistant speaker. That's set to change now, though.
Google's smart home products, including smart speakers and smart displays, are now gaining the ability to receive incoming calls. However, before you get too excited, be informed that the feature is available only on one mobile carrier throughout the world, at least for now.
Australian telecommunications giant Telstra is the first to roll out this ability to Assistant devices. The company is notifying its customers that they can now answer incoming calls on Assistant-powered "Google Nest and Home devices" linked to their mobile number, at no additional cost.
The feature supports up to ten compatible, connected smart home devices. Users can manually select which devices will receive the call through the Google Home app. Simply go to Settings > Voice and Video Calls > Mobile calls > Telstra. Now tap Manage, activate "Inbound Calling", and then tap Save. After that, you can select the Google devices you would like to ring.
All of the selected devices will ring when a call is incoming, announcing the name or number of the caller aloud before playing the ringtone. Users can simply say "Hey/OK Google, Answer Call" or tap on the device's touch surface to accept the call. Anyone can also silence the speakers by saying "Hey/OK Google, Reject Call". This will not stop the phone from ringing, so the user can still answer the call from their phone.
Interestingly, Telstra's message specifically mentions Google Nest and Home devices. It remains to be seen if third-party Assistant devices are also picking up this ability.
Google Assistant speakers can now answer incoming calls
As much as this feature seems to be making Assistant speakers and smart displays all the more useful, there are some concerns attached as well. Firstly, multiple devices ringing all around the house at the same time sounds kind of annoying.
But what's worse is that this feature works even when you're not home or your phone is switched off. The latter part might be useful in cases when your phone is out of battery and you couldn't plug in a charger. But the fact that anyone in the house can answer your calls, even if you're not around or you deliberately wanted to avoid certain calls and had your phone switched off, doesn't sound very pleasing.
Perhaps this technology still needs a lot of refinement and could make good use of Google's presence sensing technology. Presence sensing uses Google's AI prowess to determine if someone is home based on their device activity. This feature only recently started rolling out to Google Home.