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Google Home Gets Hands-Free Calling, Free Spotify, HBO Now Support

Variety logo Variety 5/17/2017 Janko Roettgers
© Provided by Variety

Google one-upped Amazon with a bunch of new features for its Google Home smart Wifi speaker at the company’s Google I/O developer conference in Mountain View, Calif. Wednesday: Google announced free phone calls as well as enhanced support for media services including Spotify and HBO Go.

Google Home will soon be able to call any phone number in the U.S. or Canada, simply though a voice command like “Okay Google, call Mom.” Calls will be completely free, and users will be able to link their own phone numbers to the device.

Google is also adding free music from Spotify, as well as support for SoundCloud to Google Home. And Google Home is integrating directly with HBO’s HBO Now streaming service, making it possible to ask to play the latest episode of a HBO show on any TV that’s equipped with Google’s Chromecast streaming adapter.

Google VP Rishi Chandra used his appearance at Google I/O to share that Google and its partners have now sold over 50 million Chromecasts and TVs with Chroemcast built-in. That’s a significant  bump from last July, when Google announced that it had sold a total of 30 million Chromecasts since the introduction of the streaming adapter in 2013.

Chandra didn’t reveal any sales numbers for Google Home, but revealed that the device will come to Canada, Australia, France, Germany and Japan this summer.

Google’s announcement of these new Google Home features came just a week after Amazon recently introduced free voice calling between Amazon Echo devices. At the time, Amazon also introduced its latest member of the Echo family, the Echo Show — a speaker that spots a 7-inch display for video viewing and the display of additional information.

Chandra didn’t reference Amazon at all Wednesday, but instead introduced another new feature that seems to directly respond to the Echo Show: Google Home owners will now be able to quickly send additional information to any phone or Chromecast-equipped TV screen.

Google Home is part of a bigger initiative for Google to give consumers access to its smart digital assistant, aptly called the Google Assistant. Thus far, the Assistant had only been available on Google Home as well as Google’s own Pixel phones. But on Wednesday, the company announced that the Assistant is also coming to iPhones through the Google app.

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