With the advent of smartphones, the landline phone has declined in popularity in most American homes. A report from the National Center for Health Statistics says that about 50.8 percent American homes ultimately depend on cell phones for communication. But tech companies, Google and Amazon, which are obsessed with the idea of smart homes are going to give the landline a new life. Somewhat, that is.
Google has added calling features to its voice activated speaker, Google Home. You can easily ask it to make a call, ask it questions and tell it to do things. All you need to do is to say “OK Google” and direct the Google Assistant to dial a number. For instance, if you don’t have the number of a local pizzeria, just tell it the exact location, and it will dial the correct number for you. For now, this speakerphone will not have its number; calls placed through Home will show as unknown numbers. But users with Project FI or Google Voice can have their numbers displayed at Home. These calls do not connect to your smartphone, which means you can connect to two different people at the same time.
Amazon, Samsung, and Microsoft have also come up with features which add calling capabilities to smart speakers. Amazon’s Echo serves a similar purpose, but you can only call people who have an Echo, Echo Dot or the Alexa app. Google Home allows calling any number – landline, cell phone, business phone or another Home, in the US and Canada, completely free of cost. Enthusiasts are also expecting Apple to join their league and provide hands-free calling on its HomePod speaker. These companies are bringing the long forgotten landline calling back into the picture. Google says that having a non-portable device will make it easy for people who have lost their smartphone or are unable to make calls, to call friends and family with a simple voice command.
There are certain challenges which Google should take into account. One, having a conversation on a speaker isn’t a private one. Two, the call quality is going to be a major concern. Voice coming out of a speaker is worse than that coming from a traditional landline phone. Third, Google Home, like most other Internet-based calling facilities, can’t make emergency calls. The fact that it can only make calls at the moment and not receive any needs attention as well.