Google As­sis­tant res­cues Barry from his BT woes

Barry Collins finds a cheap speaker to beat his mo­bile re­cep­tion woes

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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

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