We call some products “smart” mostly due to the abilities they have that sometimes go beyond our own skills, at least when it comes to getting information from the Internet. There are times, however, when smart assistants and smart devices don’t actually behave that smartly, like things we take for granted because of human behavior or common sense. It is only recently, for example, that these smart speakers and displays have started to adjust their behavior depending on whether there’s anyone around in the first place, like ringing them only when you’re around to actually answer a call.
To be fair, presence sensing is actually a complicated topic, mostly because of the privacy implications the feature may have. Most will probably presume cameras will be involved to determine whether someone’s home but there are also other sensors and devices that can be used for that. Smart tags and smart thermostats, for example, are good options, and sometimes even the state of a smart lock could offer a clue regarding someone’s presence at home.
Google Home, however, uses a different factor for that. In the new option found by 9to5Google, the app will use your phone’s location to determine whether you are home or not. When enabled, Google Home will direct Google Duo and supported call providers won’t ring your smart speakers or displays at home when you’re phone isn’t nearby.
This method, however, does have one important flaw. If someone is home but you or your phone isn’t, Google Home still won’t ring the smart devices even if someone can theoretically answer the call. More importantly, the setting warns that even if you turn it off, Google Home’s Home & Away Routines may still continue using your phone’s location, depending on those settings.
This new “only ring when home” is part of version 2.36 of the Google Home app. It is currently available already on iOS but, as always, is still rolling out in waves on Android.