In addition to announcing two new Pixel phones at its recent Pixel Fall Launch event, Google just made it easier (and more pleasant!) to call businesses and field incoming calls. Now there are tools for finding the best time to call a business, wading through automated menus, and more.
Google has previously made great strides for making phone calls a less terrible experience in general. Anyone with a Pixel phone has already had access to its fantastic slate of call features like Call Screen, Hold for Me, and Visual Voicemail. Now, Google has added a few more tools for calls that’ll actually make calling up a business a not totally unpleasant occurrence. They’re available starting today on Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro devices in the United States.
Waiting in an indeterminably long queue to talk to a representative sucks, especially when you’re busy and have other things to do. Google’s new Wait Times feature will show you the projected wait times for a certain day and time for the upcoming week, so you can have an idea of when the best time to call is.
Google’s predictions are, as the company describes it, “inferred from call length data that is not linked to user identifiers.” So while any listed wait times aren’t an exact guarantee, they’re an educated guess, and honestly, that’s better than heading into a call blind. If you’re calling a business you can visit—like a restaurant—these wait times may even give you a heads up on how busy the place is at that moment.
Arguably the only thing worse than waiting on hold is having to navigate seemingly endless automated menus. Luckily, the Direct My Call feature can take of that hassle for you. Google Assistant listens to menu options for you, then transcribes them onto your phone’s screen. What’s really cool here is that you can tap which option you want (like “Press 1 to hear our hours of operation”); this means you’ll no longer have to remember every option AND that you’ll still be able to see each one clearly even if your connection isn’t great.
This feature is powered by Google’s Duplex technology. That uses language understanding models and advanced speech recognition technology to understand and contextualize any option you as a caller would need to interact with, like when you would need to say a word (like “representative” to speak with an agent) or press a button (like “1” to hear business hours, or to enter account information.
Direct My Call is similar to another feature Google launched last year called Hold For Me, but made better. Google estimates that Hold For Me saves U.S. Pixel users over 1.5 million minutes each month and that it will soon be expanding to international Pixel users in Canada, Japan, and Australia in the coming months.
The Direct My Call feature can recognize when hold music is being played and can tell the difference between when a pre-recorded message plays and when an actual representative picks up. When they do, Google Assistant will display a notification on your screen telling you that “Someone’s waiting to talk to you” then prompting you to “Return to call.”
Spam calls are the bane of the modern tech user’s existence, so Google is working to improve its caller ID coverage for businesses through its users. Now, users can share information about unknown businesses that you call or answer; Google will eventually display this info to help others better identify and handle random calls through Call Screen, which will give you an idea of who is calling before you answer (and potentially waste your time).
So, you might eventually see a bubble appear under the incoming phone number that says something like “Likely: finance & insurance.” Hopefully, this will come to help you better discern spam calls from ones you might have been expecting but not know the number for. Google says that any information you share “is not joined with any user identifiers.”
Call Screen currently screens about 37 million calls each month. Google is now expanding the manual Call Screen to international Pixel users in the U.K., France, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Italy, and Australia.
Any audio transcriptions are processed on your Pixel device, ensuring an experience that’s both speedy and private. Audio is not shared with Google (unless you want it to be, to help improve features).