What's for Christmas, Google? Oh, you're taking away free phone calls from our Nest speakers

Reach out to your loved ones - but in Great Britain you'll have to use your phone

A handy feature in Google's Nest speakers allows users to place calls to mobiles and landlines free of charge without a subscription or dedicated handset. Sadly, that particular benefit is coming to an end in the UK.

On its official Nest support pages, Google wrote: "Starting in mid-December 2020, if you're in the UK, you won't be able to make Google-supported calls on your speaker or display."

Google declined to offer a precise date, but said Nest owners would still be able to make calls through Duo. These can only be placed to other Duo users, and not to traditional phone numbers.

Those in the US and Canada will still be able to place calls through their devices to landlines and mobiles, as well as via Google Voice or Fi. It's not clear why Mountain View is withdrawing this feature in the UK alone. Emails to Google representatives were not answered.

The excision of this feature puts Google's smart speakers at somewhat of a disadvantage to Amazon's Echo series, for example, which offers free landline and mobile calls through its Alexa Communication service.

While it'd be easy to dismiss this feature as fairly peripheral to the core functionality of a smart speaker, this correspondent knows of some people who rely on their smart speakers to keep in touch with loved ones.

These people, in my experience, tend to be older and on fixed incomes, and aren't always able to negotiate reductions their phone contracts. They find using an Echo or Nest more comfortable than a traditional landline, particularly as they don't have to stand up and walk anywhere. Given the current circumstances, and the impending nationwide lockdown, the removal of this feature feels ill-timed. ®

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