Along with its announcement of group Duo and Meet video calling on the Nest Hub Max and select other smart displays, Google yesterday mentioned that it was beginning to roll out the household contacts feature, which had been promised since January, to Assistant speakers and displays. Today, the option showed up on our Lenovo Smart Displays and Google Nest Hubs, and appears to be making its way to more and more users.
What are household contacts?
Every family has a few common friends and family members that everyone is in contact with, be it parents, kids, grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, friends of the family, etc... Currently, the only way anyone can call these people is if they've set up Voice Match on the speaker/display they're using and they've saved that person's details in their own contacts.
Household contacts allow home owners (i.e. the person who creates the household in the Google Home app) to share some of their own contacts with the rest of the home. So your spouse can call cousin Rebecca even if they don't have her number, or your kid can check in with their grandparents without having to go through whatever hoops you had to go through to set it up.
Your Assistant speaker or smart display needs to be set up in US English (probably as a first language too, specifically). You also need to add at least one method of calling people — via phone number or Google Duo or both.
Adding household contacts
If you have a smart display
Owners of a Nest Hub, Hub Max, or other Assistant smart sisplay should notice a new Household contacts card on their device's screen. Tapping it lets you view the people you've already added plus a button to select more. If you don't see the card, try saying, "Hey Google, set up household contacts."
Choose the blue Add household contacts and you'll be presented with a list of all your Google Contacts (the display verifies that it's you, the owner, by matching your voice) with a few relevant suggestions on top. Select the ones you want to add and tap Done.
From the Google Assistant settings
In the Google Home app, tap your account avatar on the top right > Assistant settings > You (first tab) > Your people. This is where you can normally add a bunch of people you frequently contact and assign nicknames to them to reach them faster.
If you don't have anyone set up yet, you can Add person, or tap on any existing contact and fill out the details. Among those is a new Household contact toggle that you can turn on for anyone you'd like to add to your smart display and speaker as a speed-dial option. When someone is added, an indicator shows up next to their name in the main list.
There should also be a specific interface for household contacts, but we haven't been able to trigger it very reliably. (It popped up after a toast message suggested it in the Google Home app, and also when our tipster clicked on Can't find someone? on his smart display when setting it up.) It doesn't offer anything inherently different, though, so you don't need to worry about not finding it.
How to call these contacts
On smart displays, you can simply tap the name of the person in the Household contact card (as seen at the very top of this post) and you'll be served with the options to start a voice or video call with them.
On speakers, simply say "Hey Google, call [contact name or nickname]" and the call should go through. This should also work on displays too, if you prefer to skip the card.
Benefits and limitations
If you have a smart display and often struggle or have a family member who struggles to place calls to some people, either because the name is difficult to pronounce or because it's confusing for Google's transcription algorithms, you can speed things up drastically by keeping those people a tap away. No more relying on Google to understand if you wanted to call your husband Marcel or mother-in-law Marcelle (true story, gah, true story); just tap on the person's name and the call goes to them.
The same is true if you would like to allow your kids to make calls without having to wait for you to be in the room and trigger it with your voice. Or if your spouse is tech averse and doesn't want to set up Voice Match but would still like to use the calling function. Or if you have guests over and want to make yourself easily reachable even when you aren't home — just add yourself to household contacts, as I did, and you'll be a tap away.
You can also assign nicknames to people, so uncle Prometheus can be "uncle Prom" or better yet "Prom" and grandma Jacqueline can become "granny," "gram," "Jack," or whatever your family prefers.
The main downside here is that anyone in the house can view your chosen contacts on smart displays plus some of their details (at least their phone number), and can call them. So don't set this up unless you're sure it won't be abused by guests or roommates (or even some mindless family members).
Also, all calls will show you as the caller (since the speaker or display won't be able to tell who's making the call in most cases, and since you're the home owner in the Home app) and will go into your Google activity.
You can read more about the feature and check a few of its additional intricacies in the support pages below.
- Anthony Maki