Google’s simple new phone feature could get you into serious trouble | ZDNet


And suddenly you hear: “Johnson Twistwhistle Bailiffs.”

Almost every fascinating new idea in tech has a lurking bad side.

Sometimes the creators just don’t see the bad. Sometimes, I fear, they simply ignore it.

I don’t think the latter is the case with this new feature in Google’s phone app, but I still find myself shuddering at the potential fallout.

The principle is simple, says 9to5Google. Those who use the Google Phone app — and I know a lot of Android types do — can now decide to have their phones verbally announce who’s calling. Yes, out loud.

It’s a little like a Bridgerton butler announcing the visit of Count Twitterhead or the Baron of Boringia.

One can surely see the benefits.

We are, after all, a lazy species. We’ve left the phone on the coffee table and we’re now leaning back in our La-Z-Boy. The phone rings. Do we really want to spend seconds letting the La-Z-Boy down in order to see who’s calling?

No, we do not. We’d much rather have our Android butler announce: “Janice Snodpuddle” and then recite the phone number.

We can then decide whether to leap to the phone or let it drift to voicemail. It makes us feel that little bit more important. And relaxed.

It’ll surely make us feel more important when the whole office hears the name of, say, a renowned headhunter or a rising star actor emerge from our phones while we’re at our open-plan desk. Or even in a meeting.

Moreover, the visually impaired will surely find this feature an extremely welcome addition.

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I do, however, worry. You see, you can set your Caller ID Announcement to Always, Never, and Only When Using A Headset.

Too many people, I fear will plump for the Always. It’s just too alluring. And, as with so many features that we enable without thinking, that decision may wreck meetings, evenings or even deeply loving relationships.

What if your Android phone butler suddenly announces “Rancid Ronnie Debt Collectors?” Or “Johnson Twistwhistle Bailiffs?”

What if you’re sitting in your happily married home, streaming a little comedy, when your phone butler pipes up with: “Marietta Smallpiece?” This just happens to be the one ex your spouse feels deeply aggressive jealousy toward.

Your comedy stream may quickly turn into a torrent of tragedy. 

The Caller ID Announcement feature needs constant monitoring and I’m not sure everyone has that discipline anymore.

From our privacy settings to our ringtones to our app additions and subtractions, there’s really too much to be thinking about.

And it’s just at the moments when we get thoughtless that real disasters occur.

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