If you have multiple Google smart speakers in your home, you might want to be aware of a certain legal ruling — because it’s going to affect how your speaker groups work. After the US International Trade Commission ruled that it was infringing on Sonos’ patents, Google has already announced software workarounds including the “need to adjust each speaker individually instead of using the group volume controller,” and that users will no longer be able to adjust a speaker group’s volume with their phone’s volume rocker. It blames this change on “a recent legal ruling,” one which you can read all about right here.
When news of the patent decision broke, Google told The Verge it had gotten non-infringing designs approved by the ITC. Sonos warned, however, that Google might have to “degrade or eliminate product features” to be compliant, and that certainly seems to be what’s happening. We just didn’t necessarily expect it to play out this soon, given that Google has 60 days to get its devices into compliance.
The changes seem like a pretty big downgrade to Google’s multi-room audio feature that lets you synchronize speakers together and have them play all at once. For instance, instead of being able to say “hey Google, set volume to 40 percent on Living Room speakers,” you’ll have to change the volume for each one, using either the assistant, Google Home app, or a Nest Hub display.
Google also says that “a small set of users” will need to use a specific app to set up their smart devices and update them, and Google is warning users that if their speaker group contains products from other manufacturers, they may need to be updated to the latest firmware to continue functioning as part of that speaker group. Google ends its blog post by saying it will “work to minimize any additional changes.”