Google alerted customers that it will remove features from its smart speakers and displays because they infringe on Sonos patents. The news comes in the wake of an International Trade Commission (ITC) ruling that found that Google’s products infringe on five Sonos patents.
“Due to a recent legal ruling we’re making some changes to how you set up your devices and the Speaker Group functionality will work moving forward,” the Google Nest team posted in the Google Nest Community forums. “If you’re using the Speaker Group feature to control the volume in the Google Home app, by voice with the Google Assistant, or directly on your Nest Hub display, you’ll notice a few changes.”
And by changes, Google means a loss of functionality:
- Users will no longer be able to adjust the volume of multiple sets of speakers in a group using a single control. Instead, they will need to adjust the volume of each speaker individually.
- Users will no longer be able to adjust the volume of multiple sets of speakers in a group using their phone’s physical volume buttons.
- Speaker groups that include non-Google brands of Cast-based devices—like those from JBL, Lenovo, and others—need to be upgraded to the latest Cast firmware version (1.52.272222). They will not work normally until users perform this upgrade. (You can learn how to do this here.)
- “A small set of users” will have to use a “Device Utility app” (DUA) to complete product installation and updates. Those impacted should receive a prompt to download and run the DUA, and it will ensure that your device is connected to Wi-Fi and receives the most updated software version. I assume this means an app from the hardware maker, which indicates that central control and/management of these devices will no longer work from the Google Home app as before.
To say that Google’s customers are unhappy with these changes—especially the first two—is an understatement: the comments to this post are full of people who say they purchased Google-based smart devices specifically for this functionality.
But this is, perhaps, the tip of the iceberg: the ITC ruled that Google infringed on five Sonos patents, so Google will need to make other changes too. And Sonos has two other patent infringement cases pending, which could lead to further diminished functionality from Google’s smart speaker and display products (and phones, laptops, and Chromecasts, too).