Google Assistant rescues Barry from his BT woes
Barry Collins finds a cheap speaker to beat his mobile reception woes
Sometimes I think BT exists purely to find inventive new ways to diddle me. My broadband charges seem to irreversibly and incessantly tick upwards like a taxi meter, I’ve had more faulty routers than microwaved dinners and now my BT Mobile reception has become so patchy that I have to climb a tree in the garden just to hear my callers.
So poor has the reception become that I recently resorted to making calls on my landline phone instead of my mobile, to save me from having to guess every third word. What that didn’t save me, of course, was money.
I’ve got enough bundled minutes on my mobile plan to recite War and Peace without fear of creeping into extra call charges, yet the only time I get free calls on the landline is at weekends. And have you seen the regular BT call charges lately? 13p a minute to call landlines, 17p a minute to mobiles and a 22p ‘set-up fee’ to place the call in the first place. A recent 30-minute conference call cost me the thick end of a fiver!
Then a device entered my life that changed everything: the Google Home Mini. I bought this handy little smart speaker out of sheer curiosity, having read so many reviews claiming how much better it was than the Amazon Echo Dots that I’ve got – well – dotted around the house. Google was having one of its regular price cuts, which dropped the price to only £40, and in that very same week it launched a new feature that would shortly cover that outlay: free calls to UK landlines and mobiles.
Making calls on the Google Home Mini could barely be easier. If you’ve got an Android phone, as I have, Google probably already has your contacts stored in its cloud. Now all I have to do is say “OK Google, call Robert Irvine”, for instance, and it starts ringing the editor of this fine organ.
It’s much smarter than that, too. Because Google knows everything, you can even ring a business for which you don’t have a number stored. I can command Google to call “Chifoo restaurant in Burgess Hill” if I want to order a Chinese takeaway, or “the nearest Pets at Home store” when I need to get the dog wormed (don’t ask) – and all without first having to find their number. If you already have a number to call, you can tell Google to do that, too.
Better still, you can enter your mobile number in the Google Home Mini’s settings and have that displayed as the caller ID when you’re making calls from the speaker, so friends and family know it’s you calling and not some random stranger who’s heard they’ve been in a car accident.
The only time the Google Home Mini comes up short is when you’re confronted by a computerised callanswering system that wants you to “press one to speak to an advisor”. There’s no “one” to press on a Google Home Mini – it’s a buttonless puck of a speaker. However, if you hang on the line and don’t press a button, those systems tend to throw you to a human operator eventually, so you can usually get what you called for.
At a stroke, this cheap little device has half-solved my dodgy mobilereception woes – it can’t take incoming calls, but I can at least have those routed to my landline when I’m at home. If only my other BT problems were so easy to solve.
My BT Mobile reception has become so patchy that I have to climb a tree in the garden just to hear my callers