One of the most convenient features of Google’s Home and Nest smart speakers is about to disappear thanks to a patent dispute with Sonos. Controlling the volume on a group of smart speakers will be going away, and owners will have to manually adjust the volume for each speaker, one at a time.
The US International Trade Commission recently ruled that Google’s products infringe on Sonos’ patents, and the implications could be a lot worse than just losing software features. Sonos already came out and said Google would need to degrade or modify features as a result, and that’s already happening. This week, Google announced a quick software update that will remove key features from its speakers, and owners on the community forum are understandably upset.
While this might not sound like a big feature at first, it’s something many people use, not to mention more removals could be on the way. For example, after this change, instead of saying “Hey Google, turn up the volume on the downstairs speakers,” owners will now have to adjust the volume for each speaker individually.
Essentially, the “group volume control” feature is getting the ax. It’s not just voice controls, either. Users can no longer adjust group volumes on their phone, the Google Home app, or a Google Nest hub device. Google also said a “small set of users” with supported products from other manufacturers, like JBL, may need to be updated to the latest firmware to continue using any existing speaker group features.
Keep in mind that these changes only apply to speaker groups, and individual Google Home and Nest speakers should continue to function as expected. Additionally, you can still use speaker groups for now, but controlling the volume will be a frustrating experience.
In a statement emailed to ReviewGeek, Google spokesperson José Castañeda said, “While we disagree with today’s decision, we appreciate that the International Trade Commission has approved our modified designs and we do not expect any impact to our ability to import or sell our products. We will seek further review and continue to defend ourselves against Sonos’ frivolous claims about our partnership and intellectual property.”
As mentioned above, Google has previously received approval from the ITC for “modified” designs, meaning they don’t expect any import bans or issues with offering products. That said, this is just the beginning of a bigger fight, and we expect to see more rulings and lawsuits in the future.
Either way, it’s unfortunate that while Google is getting sued, we, the users, must pay the price by losing features on products. We’ve reached out to Sonos and will update this report once we know more.
via The Verge