GADGETS

Google kills some features of the Nest speaker


An image showing the phone with the options for adjusting the volume

Google Home requires you to adjust the volume of each device individually when sending to a set of speakers.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

All good things should come to an end, and that includes the ability to use Google’s multi-room transmission for seamless audio control, a feature that has been found to infringe Sonos patents.

After the Commerce Committee ruled in favor of Sonos yesterdayGoogle posted on its website Nest . Forums About immediate changes to the speaker groups feature. Google is rolling out software tweaks so that its audio streaming features don’t infringe the five patents that caused all this.

Here’s the gist: You can no longer adjust the volume on all devices within your Google Cast home group with just a simple finger swipe. Instead, you will have to adjust the volume slider individually on both the connected smart speakers and the displays within that particular group.

One advantage of choosing your Android smartphone as a home console in your Google home is that pressing the external volume button would also control the volume on each speaker that contributes to the home group. But that also disappears, and you can no longer use the quick shortcut to lower the volume.

Google wrote that most sets of speakers should continue to work as expected unless you’re using JBL and Lenovo-branded devices, which use a different transmission protocol. JBL and Lenovo devices need firmware version 1.52.272222 or higher to work.

You can check the technical information in the Google Home app by tapping on the device name and then File Settings button in the right corner. You will find the firmware list below Device information. If you feel that your device is missing a firmware update, you can try to do a factory reset and then link it back up to your Google account to update it.

A small subset of people will have to install the Device Utility App or DUA to receive software updates. If any of your devices fall into this category, you’ll see a popup, likely in the Google Home app, to download and install DUA. This will help ensure that your devices stay connected to your home wifi and are running the latest firmware. Setting up any new Google Home products will also include installing DUA.

People are angry, if the responses to Google’s participation in the Nest Forums is no indication. Some people are even asking for a refund, noting that this removes one of the most convenient Google cast features. One forum member wrote: “This ‘update’ breaks all purpose and functionality of using your devices to listen to music.” Another says, “I’m physically disabled and specifically bought devices so that I could control them by voice.”

My house is covered in casting hardware (it’s my job!), so I went ahead and tested the multi-room mode myself. It was the first time I tried it on what I will call a “heritage” home kit I created a long time ago. It includes five speakers placed around my basement area. While casting music from Spotify, there were no volume control options when I pressed the phone button, and Google Assistant claimed that volume down with a voice command was “unavailable”.

It will be interesting to see if more “fixes” are rolled out in the next couple of months, which is how long Google took before it was banned from importing devices that infringe Sonos patents (which include Nest speakers, Chromecast streaming stick and Pixel phones). But the company already has a contingency plan in place — the programs listed above are adjusting — which It was approved by the judge who delivered the initial ruling last August, and what we’re seeing here is likely the result of all of that.



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