Google Home rolls out calling service to compete with Amazon Echo.
Amazon keeps upping the ante in the smart home wars – but Google Home is ready to call.
Now Google Home users can make hands-free phone calls to your personal contacts and millions of businesses across the U.S. and Canada, the company announced on Wednesday afternoon. So if you’ve got your hands full making cookies, but you need to ask mom whether you’re supposed to use vanilla extract or almond extract, you can ask the smart device to ring her up as you keep stirring.
Amazon also introduced Alexa-to-Alexa voice calling with its Echo devices earlier this year, but the catch is that the recipient needs to also have an Echo device. Google Home’s hands-free calling, which will begin rolling out this week, lets you reach out to anyone in your Google contacts for free, whether they have a Home device or not, or it can pull business numbers off of Google if you want to order sandwiches from your corner deli, or book a reservation at a restaurant.
A few caveats: The recipient will see “Unknown” or “No Caller ID” when you call for now, but your mobile number should be displayed by the year’s end. You can also visit the Help Center for tips on linking other contacts stored on your phone to Google Home. Calls to 911 are not supported.
Juniper Research predicts that smart home industry sales will hit $83 billion this year, and rise to $195 billion by 2021.
Amazon has long had the advantage of being the first major player in the market with its Echo products, which let you buy things off Amazon, and order an Uber or food takeout, along with the requisite music player and smart home controls.
But Google Home is catching up fast with life-hacking services like this hands-free calling feature, as well as finding and tracking flights for frequent fliers, and drawing on Google itself – the world’s most widely-used search engine – to answer questions and deliver a personalized daily news and weather report.
And Google’s Assistant can now recognize up to six voices on a single Google Home device, so if one person says, “Hey Google – call mom,” the smart speaker will call her mom, and not her roommate’s or her boyfriend’s mom. It will also play your personal playlist, and give your personalized daily schedule.
And at $130, Google Home is easier on the wallet than the advanced Alexa devices, which run $179.99 for the Echo, up to the $229.99 Echo Show, which includes a screen and a camera for watching videos.
One thing’s clear: The escalating battle between Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa is a win-win for shoppers as the voice-activated personal assistants vie to make our lives easier.
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