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Amazon Echo and Google Home could soon be used for phone calls

by Brandon Russell | February 15, 2017February 15, 2017 11:30 am PDT

The Amazon Echo and Google Home are primarily used to deliver quick nuggets of information and control gadgets around your home. Soon, both products may get a skill so obvious it’s odd the feature wasn’t available from the start.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon and Google are preparing to turn their smart speakers into home phones. Or, at least, give them the ability to make and receive calls through the phone you already own. Last year, AT&T introduced a feature that allowed customers to send text messages using an Echo by enabling a “skill,” so there’s already some basic integration.

Apparently, the main hangup right now is over privacy, telecom regulations and emergency services, the WSJ said.

“One concern is potential consumer anxiety over speaking on a device that has the ability to record conversations,” a source told WSJ.

Which is funny, because some people seemingly have no issue talking on speakerphone out in public. However, it sounds much more sinister when you don’t feel like you have privacy in your own home.

The WSJ says Amazon’s feature would collect a call’s metadata (numbers dialed, length of conversations) but not the conversations themselves. Google could potentially use a similar method.

It’s unclear how the phone capabilities would be implemented into the devices, but WSJ speculates the Echo could get its own phone number. Meanwhile, Google may develop its own tool for syncing with a user’s existing phone number and contacts.

Both companies reportedly see phone capabilities as the next logical step in the evolution of their smart home products.

Is this a feature you would use?

People have warmed up to the idea of Echo and Google Home, which always listen for trigger phrases. Perhaps using these devices for phone conversations isn’t such a wild idea, though there will likely be pushback from people who have concerns over privacy.

There are certainly some big obstacles in the way, including federal laws and emergency services, so there’s no telling if these features will ever be available. I’m not so sure the majority of users are pining for these features to be available. Then again, what consumers want may not matter when companies are more concerned with gathering data.

WSJ

Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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