Both Amazon (AMZN) and Alphabet, Google’s (GOOGL) parent company, want their devices to make or receive calls, people familiar with the matter first told the Wall Street Journal. Bringing a new spin to the antiquated landline is a way for both companies to gain “further control over consumers’ digital lives at home,” notes the Journal.
Though the tech giants would like to launch the feature this year, both Amazon and Google have concerns about privacy, telecom regulations, and emergency services, as well as the “inherent awkwardness” of having a conversation through a speaker, the Journal reports. Currently, neither have articulated a date when the voice-calling features would be available.
To enable the voice-calling feature, Amazon is considering a number of different options. Echo could get its own phone number, or users could sync their existing home phone numbers to a device. Call forwarding is also a possibility. Both companies could even develop a call tool themselves, according to the Journal.
But swapping between the speaker and a handset could also reportedly cause issues when users are trying to leave a room or their home. And questions also arise about how a user could call 911, as most Internet calling services don’t allow for those type of calls, the Journal reports.
Telling Echo or the Google Home to call someone is the next step for artificial-intelligence-powered speakers, people familiar with the matter told the Journal. Currently, both respond to various voice commands like to play or pause music, and answer questions, among other things.