Google’s new “Hold for Me” feature, available only on the Google Pixel 5 and the Google Pixel 4a (5G) sits on hold for you when you call an 800 number, allowing you to get back to your life without fear of missing your chance to talk to a customer service person. The feature was announced on September 30 so most reviewers haven’t had the chance to try it out yet. But if it works as described, it just might make the $699 Pixel 5 or $499 Pixel 4a (5G) worth the investment.
How does it work? Call an 800 number and get put on hold. This is where, if you’re anything like me, you put the phone on speaker and try to get some work done while struggling to ignore elevator music interspersed with repetitive messages about the great products I could buy from the company or how my call is important to them. With Hold for Me, you still have to wait, but you don’t have to listen to any of that nonsense because Google listens for you. The company says that its sophisticated AI can tell the difference between a live person and those endless pre-recorded messages and it will summon you back to your phone with a sound, vibration, and on-screen message reading “Someone’s waiting to talk to you.” In the meantime, it asks the customer service person on the other end to hold on — you’ll be right there.
Throughout your wait time, the phone will visually display whatever it’s hearing, either music or words such as “Your call is important to us,” in case you want to check what’s going on. (No word on whether Google will actually name the tunes it’s hearing. That’s something its algorithms are very good at, as I know from frequently yelling out, “Hey Google, what’s this song?” while driving.)
Google says that “audio is processed entirely on your device and does not require a Wi-Fi or data connection.” That means you won’t be charged for any data to use the service, that it will work fast, and that the data Hold for Me records won’t go beyond your phone unless you choose to share it with Google to improve the service. When a customer service person comes on the line, Google will inform them that the call is being recorded, and as soon as you return to the call, Google will stop recording it. At least for now, the service only works on 800 numbers and only in the United States.
10 million hours on hold.
In its announcement, Google says that Americans spend more than 10 million hours a week on hold with businesses. I contributed some of that time last week when, perhaps fittingly, I spent 20 minutes waiting to give my bank verbal approval to use my Android Wear watch for making payments. While I appreciate the bank’s commitment to security, and I fully understand why they required verbal approval, listening over and over to recorded suggestions that I use the website was especially aggravating. Hold for Me would have made it much less annoying.
Google says Pixel 5 and 4a (5G) owners are getting an “early preview” of Hold For Me and that over time it will bring the service to more people as part of its Phone App suite. Phone App includes Call Screen, which blocks robo- and spam calls, and Verified Caller, which asks a business why they’re calling you and lets you see a transcript of the answer before deciding whether to pick up. Google’s not saying yet when Hold for Me will be available on more devices. Personally, I can’t wait.