In terms of productivity and convenience, having more than one way to do something—archive an email, take a screenshot, search the web—is usually better than having a single method. You can pick whichever one suits you best, or even jump between these approaches as situations change.
With that in mind, we want to make sure you know that there are alternatives when it comes to answering the phone, beyond simply picking up your phone and tapping the screen to accept the call. Chances are that you’ve used at least one of these methods before, but you might find something here that you didn’t know (or did know and have since forgotten).
That smart assistant that tells you the weather and sets timers for you can also be used to answer incoming calls—or at least it can if you’re on Android and using Google Assistant. First, you need to make sure that hands-free “hey Google” voice activation is enabled, and then you can use a voice command to answer or reject incoming calls.
From the Google app on your phone, tap your profile picture (top right), then Settings, Google Assistant, and Hey Google & Voice Match: Under the This device tab, make sure the Hey Google toggle switch is turned on. You’re still going to need a “hey Google” or an “okay Google” command to answer a call.
Incoming calls will show up as notifications on your Android phone, then you just need to say “hey Google, answer call” (or something along those lines) to pick up without lifting a finger. You can also use the “reject call” command if it’s someone you don’t want to speak to right now.
Another option is to use a smart speaker like a Google Nest or an Amazon Echo to route your calls through—this can be configured through the Google Home or the Amazon Alexa app as required. What you can’t do at the moment is use Siri to answer incoming calls on an iPhone, unless you’ve got certain pairs of headphones connected...
People have been using Bluetooth headsets to answer calls for decades, of course. Get one of these devices attached via Bluetooth to your smartphone, and the call will be routed through, direct to your ears—though the method of answering it is going to vary depending on the hardware you’re using. Most modern car dashboard stereos now work in the same way, too.
In recent years phones have gotten smarter when it comes to letting you answer calls hands-free via a pair of headphones or earphones: Usually only a tap somewhere is required when the call is coming in, but again, you’ll have to consult the instructions that came with your device. With the Sony WF-1000XM4, for instance, all it takes is a double tap on one of the earbuds.
If you’re using AirPods, or a select number of Beats headphones, with an iPhone, you can get Siri to tell you who’s calling, and use a voice command to answer the call. From Settings, pick Phone and then Announce Calls: Pick Headphones Only, and you’ll hear details about the call in your ears. When this feature is enabled, no “hey Siri” is required; you can just say “yes” to accept the call or “no” to reject it when Siri asks.
With Google’s Pixel Buds, you can tap the right earbud to answer calls as they come in, but you can’t use the Google Assistant. You can make calls through the Pixel Buds using Google Assistant, but you can’t answer them with only your voice.
Answering your buzzing phone from a laptop or desktop still feels vaguely futuristic, although this kind of seamless tech syncing has been around for several years now. To make it work, at least through official solutions, you need either all of your gadgets or none of your gadgets to be made by Apple.
The process is most straightforward if you own both an iPhone and a Mac: From Settings on your iPhone, pick Phone, then Calls on Other Devices to turn on the feature. Assuming they’re both connected to the same Apple ID, and using the same wifi network, it should happen automatically: An incoming iPhone call prompts a notification on macOS that you can click on to answer the call.
You can perform the same trick with Windows and an Android phone. You need to open up the Phone Link app that comes with Windows, then follow the setup instructions on screen to get your Android handset and the Windows operating system connected. As long as both devices are connected via Bluetooth and you’ve enabled calling during setup, you’ll be able to click a prompt on Windows to answer a call being received by your Android phone.
At the time of writing, you can’t answer calls to Android devices on a Chromebook, but the functionality is apparently on the way (and may have arrived by the time you’re reading this). Right now, you can connect an Android handset to share files and notifications with a Chromebook: On Chrome OS, click the clock icon, then the settings cog, then choose Set up next to Android phone under Connected devices.