Google Home has come a long way since it launched back in October of last year. The air freshener-shaped Assistant speaker was initially criticized for being a little lacking in features compared to Amazon’s competing Echo collection. However, ten months of software updates have made it a much more capable product than ever before.
Google Home is now capable of making free phone calls for users in the US and Canada. Using WiFi calling, you can reach any number stored in your contacts or listed on Google Maps (alternatively, you can simply say the phone number you want to call).
This service is completely independent of your cellular plan, meaning that you won’t have to worry about using up your minutes if your carrier somehow doesn’t provide unlimited calling in 2017. The downside to this is that since you’re not using your phone number, with the person on the receiving end of the call simply seeing you as an unknown caller — though Google Voice and Fi users have the option of using their own number.
Bluetooth is another fairly new function of Google Home. Found in Device Settings > Paired Bluetooth Devices > Enable Pairing Mode, you can connect any Bluetooth-compatible device to your Google Home for audio playback. Audio quality is pretty good from the Google Home, making this a good alternative to buying a separate Bluetooth speaker.
I’ve been a longtime Spotify Premium user, and I constantly use my Google Home to listen to music while I’m working, but as of today, Home finally supports free Spotify accounts as well, making it the first assistant speaker to do so. The only downside to using a free Spotify account on Google Home is that, like on a phone, you’re limited to ad-supported radio stations. Not a bad tradeoff if you don’t want to pay for a Premium account.
Multiple user support was a long-requested feature that finally made its way to Google Home back in April. My fiancée and I use our Google Home regularly for music playback and smart home controls, but the Home is also capable of handling personal information like calendar appointments that the two of us don’t share. For that, each user can sign into the Home app on their phone, then train the Home to recognize their voice automatically to serve the right information to the right person.
Finally, Actions are probably the most important update to come to the Google Home. Just like Amazon Alexa’s Skills, Actions allow third-party developers to integrate core functions of their services into Google Assistant. This is what makes it possible to use the Home to order a pizza from Dominos, call a Lyft, send Netflix content to a Chromecast device, and any other action from a non-Google service.
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