Google's Launch Night In is in full swing, and the Pixel 5 and 4a (5G) have just been announced. Google is already talking about the latest exclusive features the new Pixel phones will get, among it a new neat Phone app trick: Hold for Me.
Hold for Me does exactly what you'd expect it to: When you call a call center or support (only on toll-free lines), the Pixel 5 and 4a (5G) will take the burden of sitting through awkward elevator music from your shoulders. Google Assistant will then alert you with a sound, vibration, and a prompt when someone comes on the line, ready to speak to you. You'll see a green "Return to Call" button on your screen. The call is muted while you wait, but a real-time transcript will keep informing you about what's happening on the call.
Since every hold music is different across support centers, a simple algorithm wouldn't be able to notice when a representative is speaking. Google says that thanks the smarts of Duplex and Call Screen, the Assistant is capable of telling recorded messages (e.g. "Thank you for waiting") and music from regular speech. The feature was tested with a number of companies, including Dell and United, so it should be pretty robust when it launches.
When you use Hold for Me, the support representative will hear a brief disclosure stating that the call is being recorded before they're connected to you. Once you're both on the line again, the recording will stop.
The feature works locally on your phone, so by default none of your audio or data is sent to Google servers. You can choose to share your data with the company to help improve it once the call has ended, though. It might then be reviewed by humans. If you don't share the data, the recording will be deleted from the phone within 48 hours.
The feature joins other smart Phone app capabilities people in the U.S. can enjoy, like Call Screen or Verified Calls. Hold for Me has actually been in the making for well over a year, when we first got wind of it thanks to a leak.
The feature is limited to devices in the U.S. and is only available in English. It will come to older Pixel phones via a Pixel Feature Drop later.
Updated to add that the feature is exclusive to the U.S. and will come to older Pixel phones later.
Updated with more details on recording disclosure and privacy.