Google Nest ‘Drop In’ Support (And What To Do Instead)

The Google Home range – which includes various Nest smart speakers and hubs including the ‘Mini’ devices – is a line of products known as ‘smart voice assistants’, and they rival Amazon’s Echo line-up. One of the features from Amazon Echo is the ability to ‘drop in’ on an Echo from anywhere in the world (or simply another part of your house).

This can be useful to check in on loved ones when you’re away, to use your Echo as an impromptu baby monitor, and more. But what about the Google Home range – is it possible to drop in with this?

The Google & Nest range of smart voice assistants do not support any ‘drop in’ type feature. However you can make use of ‘Google Duo’ for similar functionality, plus the Google Nest Hub Max allows you to watch its video feed.

What is Amazon’s ‘Drop In’ feature, and why is it useful?

As I mentioned earlier, the Amazon Echo range of smart voice assistants contains a feature called ‘Drop In’. This allows you to use your Alexa app or another Echo device to listen in on another Echo. Whilst this sounds like a privacy issue, the dropped in on Echo will make it clear that it has been dropped in on by making a sound and showing a pulsing green light ring:

A full size Echo device in drop-in mode (i.e. with a green ring around it).
A full size Echo device in drop-in mode (with a green ring).

Equally you can turn off this feature quite easily in the Alexa app:

Screenshot from the Alexa app showing the three communication settings (including calling and drop-in) for an Echo.
The three communication settings (including calling and drop-in) for an Echo device.

Since Amazon have proactively allayed any privacy concerns about it, the drop in feature has become quite a well liked – and used – feature across the Echo range.

It can be useful for a range of purposes:

  • As an impromptu baby (or child) monitor. I tried this out myself and whilst I do prefer a dedicated baby monitor, the Echo does work well when you want to quickly check in on your children. Maybe you think you heard a sound and you want to check it more, or you’re out and you wanted to quickly check in on your children. Either way, drop in can work well hear.
  • Check in on loved ones. If you’re away travelling (or simply for the day), you can use the Alexa app to drop in on any of your Echo devices. Dropping in on the Echo where your loved ones are most likely to be can be a nice way of saying ‘hi’ and checking how they’re all doing. This can be a lot easier than doing a call via a smartphone which often only allows for effective communication with a single person at a time.
  • Have a group conversation throughout your house. By saying “Alexa, drop in everywhere“, you can start a multi-way conversation with all Echo devices. Whilst Amazon’s “Announcement” feature is good for this, if you require responses to the announcement, drop-in everywhere can work better instead.
  • Check in on your pets. When you’re at work, it can be useful to check in on your pets from your video-enabled smart displays as it might be able to show you your pets (depending on where they are in the house) – and hopefully show them peacefully sleeping, not angrily tearing through your garbage!

As you can see, it’s quite a useful feature on the Amazon Echo range so it’s unfortunate that the Google Home range doesn’t support it.

Google’s smart devices where ‘drop in’ would be useful

Google’s smart speaker line-up is fairly varied with “Mini” devices to rival the Echo Dot, all the way up to smart touchscreen displays with inbuilt cameras (the Nest Hub Max). The full line-up is as follows:

NameFeaturesRelease DateNotes
Google Home Smart SpeakerSmart speaker4th November 2016Released to America only in 2016. The rest of the World had this in 2017 onwards.
Google Home MiniSmart speaker19th October 2017
Google Home MaxSmart speaker11th December 2017
Google Home HubSmart speaker with screen9th October 2018Contains a touchscreen, making it similar to the Echo Show from Amazon.
Nest Mini (2nd Gen)Smart speaker22nd October 2019Replaces the Google Home Mini (Google have rebranded this product range to ‘Nest’).
Nest HubSmart speaker with screen7th May 2019Still 1st Gen (Google have rebranded this product range to ‘Nest’).
Nest Hub Max (2nd Gen)Smart speaker with screen and cameraSeptember 2019
The full list of products in Google Nest’s smart speaker range.

Google’s seven smart speaker products would all benefit from a ‘drop in’ type feature, although since this isn’t available you have to instead rely on a voice and video call alternative called Google Duo…

Google Duo: Use this instead of the ‘drop in’ feature

Google Duo is a “free high-quality video calling” app that was released by Google on August 16th 2016 and it aims to rival FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp and the other calling programs out there. It also supports group chats containing 12+ participants and it features full end-to-end encryption so all your conversations are secure.

Google Duo has been integrated into the Google Home app and it can be used to start a voice or video call with your Google Home device. The Nest Hub Max (with an in-built camera) will support video calls, whilst the rest of the range support voice-only calls.

To get started, launch the Google Home app on your smartphone and you should be able to scroll the ‘suggestions’ part left or right to see a Google Duo label:

Phone screenshot showing the "Setup Duo Calls" option on the Google Home app.
The “Setup Duo Calls” option on the Google Home app.

Once clicked, you get an explanation about what Duo is and how it works:

Phone screenshot showing the 'what is Duo' page on the Google Home app.
The ‘what is Duo’ page on the Google Home app.

Click Continue and follow the steps, which can involve linking your mobile number to your Google Duo account. This step is optional, but be sure to link your email address to Google Duo otherwise you can’t ring your Google Home devices (since these are registered to your account via your email address, not your phone number).

Eventually, you’ll come to the following screen which allows you to select which Google Home device you want to accept Duo calls on:

Phone screenshot of Google Home app showing Duo is setup and enabled on my Google Nest Mini device.
Duo is setup and enabled on my Google Nest Mini device.

Once this is all setup, go back to the home screen of the Google Home app and you’ll see a new call button:

Phone screenshot showing the "Call Home" button, available after setting up Google Duo through the Google Home app.
The “Call Home” button is now available in the Google Home app.

Congratulations, this is all setup now! When clicked, it will start calling your Google Home device. To give an example, when I tried this out, my Google Nest Mini device (called “Living Room speaker”) made the following ringing sound:

The sound that a ringing Google Home device will make.

To answer, just say “Hey Google, answer the call“.

Whilst Duo calls need to be accepted and hence they’re not quite as good as ‘drop in’ (babies can’t say “Hey Google, answer the call” after all!), some people actually prefer this on privacy grounds. So whilst it’s not exactly the same, Google Duo calls to your Google Home devices is sort of a drop-in replacement.

How the Google Nest Hub Max sort of has ‘drop in’

The Nest Hub Max has a built-in Nest Camera, equivalent to a Nest Indoor Cam IQ since the Hub Max offers familiar face recognition and more (when you have the Nest Aware plan).

This allows you to view the video feed in real time via your Google Home app, which you can see in the following video by jumping to 23:58:

This is a pretty nice feature and it’s the same as the ‘drop in’ feature of the Amazon Echo Show and Spot devices (i.e. the Echos with touchscreens).

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about this article, please leave a comment below. Please note that all comments go into a moderation queue (to prevent blog spam). Your comment will be manually reviewed and approved by Tristan in less than a week. Thanks!

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