(Pocket-lint) - Google just made Google Home a more compelling rival to Amazon Echo.
Earlier this year, 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 moths later, Google is levelling 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.
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How does Google Home calling work?
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. At the time, 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."
Now, however, the feature is officially rolling out, and we have a better idea of how it works. You can dial anyone in your contacts and local businesses for free - as long as they're in the US. To place calls with Home, say "OK Google, call (recipient)." You can also say "Hey Google" if that's your preference. The person you're calling needs to be stored in Google Contacts for things to work, however.
If you're using another app, make sure those numbers are stored in Google's cloud. Go here to learn how to sync contacts with your Google account. Google said all calls are made over Wi-Fi and that they're entirely separate from your smartphone. Now, there's no way to call someone else's Google Home; it only supports outgoing calls, and the only way to use the feature is with your Google Home device.
In other words, it does not work like Amazon's Alexa calling feature, which lets you call from one Echo to another Echo and even call someone's Alexa app. That said, Google Home can identify different users in your house by voice, so if you say "OK Google, call mom" it will call your mom without even asking who is making the call. Also, if you're a Google Voice or Project Fi user, you can tie your actual number to your Google Home.
That way the people you're calling can see your number. Otherwise, it'll show as "unknown" or "no caller ID". You can tell Google Home to display the phone number tied to Google Voice or Project Fi under Assistant settings in your Google Home app for Android or iOS.
Who can you call with Google Home?
You can call any landline or mobile number in the US and Canada for free - although calls to 911 or 1-900 numbers are not supported.
With just your voice, you can call millions of businesses in the US, thanks to built-in Google Search on Google Home. You can also call your own personal contacts. So, you'll be able to say "Hey Google, call Bob's Pizza" or "Hey Google, call mom".
The feature will be coming to the UK later in 2017.
How much do calls cost?
Calls to the US and Canada are free.
When the feature arrives in the UK, such calls will also be free. We don't have information about premium numbers at this moment in time, however.
When will Google Home calling be ready?
Hands-free calling for Google Home is out now in the US and Canada.
Google Home is also available in Australia, France, Germany, and the UK - but hands-free calling isn't yet supported in these countries. Non-English language updates will, presumably, follow later down the line.
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.