While smartphones are increasingly approaching feature phone pricing, the latter category still has a place. As such, “smart” feature phones exist, and many are powered by KaiOS, though Google Assistant in recent months lost the ability to make calls and send texts through voice commands. 

Smart feature phones are defined by the presence of internet-powered apps, with Google offering YouTube, Google Maps, and Lens. Assistant is the other big addition and closely integrated with KaiOS. Functionality includes:

  • Calling someone
  • Sending someone a message
  • Turning on device features
  • Turning up the volume
  • Opening an app
  • Opening a YouTube video
  • Doing a search on Google Maps
  • Doing a search on Google
  • Asking trivia questions

However, as of the past few months, Assistant on KaiOS can no longer perform the first two actions. This was previously a capability, but now you get back, “Sorry, I can’t make calls/send messages yet,” which is Google’s usual response when a feature has been removed. In the past, Assistant would respond with: “What do you want to write to X?” or “Your message is … do you want to send it or change it?”

This issue started in mid-April across a wide range of KaiOS devices, including those from Nokia. The issue persists to this day, with one recent buyer of the Nokia 2720 V Flip contacting the manufacturer and received the following response:

Due to recent changes implemented by Google, feature phones running on KaiOS will experience limited functionality with Google Assistant. Calling and sending SMS messages to your contacts using Google Assistant are no longer supported. Other Google Assistant features currently work as normal.

That comes as the capability is still being advertised today on product listings:

Google Assistant lets you surf the web, check the weather forecast, send messages and make calls with simple voice commands. Get more done hands-free with Google Assistant.

It’s an unfortunate removal given how voice messaging is extremely convenient and means you don’t have to deal with a T9 keypad for texting. While access to the internet still makes this feature phone smart, the decreased communication functionality is a loss.

We’ve reached out to Google for comment and will update when we hear back.

Thanks Jim

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About the Author

Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com