Google’s smart speakers can now answer incoming phone calls, but probably not where you live

Google Assistant-enabled smart speakers have been able to make calls for a while now in countries like Australia, Canada, and the US. But the functionality was limited to outbound calls placed from the speaker itself. Now it looks like inbound call support is coming to Google’s smart home products, but only on a single carrier in Australia.

Telstra customers in Australia are being notified that they can now receive inbound calls on Google Assistant speakers and smart displays linked to their mobile number.  The Google device(s) will announce the inbound caller’s name or number and the call can be picked up or rejected with a voice command or a tap. Any Telstra number can be paired with up to ten Google smart home devices for calling features, and all of the connected devices will ring when a call is incoming. It even works when the phone itself is dead or powered off.

Though this is a super cool feature that makes Google’s smart home gadgets even more helpful, I think this idea is better in theory than in reality. Having every Google Home and Nest speaker or smart display ringing every time someone calls me sounds kind of annoying, and what’s worse is that anyone nearby can answer or reject the call.

I can imagine important incoming calls getting rejected by other members of the household who are put off by the loud ringing before the intended recipient can pick up. Telstra and Google state that every linked device will ring even if the recipient isn’t present in the home, so this really doesn’t seem feasible unless you live alone or trust every person in the home with all of your phone calls. (Seems like a feature that could make good use of Google’s presence sensing technology, no?)