Landlines may seem like a holdover from the 20th century, as more people rely solely on wireless phones to stay connected. But Google thinks a few 21st century touches could help the landline retain its place in the home.
The Internet giant announced Fiber Phone, a $10-a-month home phone service that it plans to offer to Google Fiber subscribers. Essentially, this is Google's take on the kind of bundling deals your cable provider tries to tempt you with, in which phone and Internet service is combined with your cable package.
In Google's case, Fiber Phone will offer unlimited local and nationwide calling. For international calls, Google is promising the same rates as its Google Voice telephone service, where subscribers pay 5 cents per minute for calls to Mexico, 1 cent per minute for calls to India and 6 cents per minute for calls to France. Fiber Phone will also feature call waiting, caller ID and the ability to dial 911 during emergencies.
But Google's also tweaking the landline experience by transcribing any voicemail you get and sending the message to you via text or email. You'll also be able to forward calls to your mobile device when you're out and about.
Google says it will introduce Fiber Phone in a few areas before bringing the service to customers in every city with Google Fiber. You can sign up with Google to get updates on Fiber Phone's progress.
Google's fighting a big headwind when it comes to getting people excited about landlines. The Centers for Disease Control, which tracks the use of wireless phones, says that nearly half of U.S. households don't have a landline. I ditched mine more than half-a-decade ago when the only people who ever called my landline were robocallers and spammers. Still, Google likely thinks there's enough remaining demand for wired phone services to make it worth the company's while to develop Fiber Phone — particularly as an add-on to Google Fiber.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.