Amazon Echo and Google Home Could Replace Landlines for Good

Both Google and Amazon are allegedly considering adding a voice calling feature to their industry leading smart speakers, Google Home and Amazon Echo. That move could spell further doom for the ailing landline home phone market.

Rumors from "people familiar with the matter" claim that both devices have software in place to support Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls. If put into place, the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa artificial intelligence assistants would be able to recognize simple voice commands similar to those used on smartphones to ring contacts and answer incoming calls.

According to the Wall Street Journal's anonymous sources, the feature could be arriving as soon as this year in selected, unconfirmed regions. These sources also indicate that Amazon is considering assigning a unique phone number to the Echo (or Echo Dot) to enable calls, or syncing the user's mobile number with the smart speaker.

With the technology reportedly already in place, the delay in its implementation has been blamed on concerns "around privacy, telecom regulations and emergency services." The latter appears to be the biggest sticking point, with calling emergency services in the US a less clear cut scenario than the UK.

The reports also note that both Google's parent company Alphabet and Amazon are mindful of the fact that not everyone is comfortable having phone conversations via a speaker, particularly as both the Echo and Home record audio for voice activation purposes.

Although Amazon would apparently only collect call metadata rather than actual audio clips recorded during calls, WSJ's Google sources did not specify Home's recording capabilities, though they would likely be similar to its Google Voice app for Android which only stores metadata, voicemails and any user-specified calls.

So, given all the rumors, could this lead to the end of the landline?

With Google Home and Amazon Echo already capable of controlling music libraries, heating systems, lighting and ordering anything from an Uber taxi to a takeaway pizza, the addition of voice calling is a logical next step for both platforms. 

So casual chats using Internet of Things-friendly smart speakers with AI assistants could be the future of calling friends and family from home. Only time will tell.

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