Google is putting an end to some Nest speaker features

Google Home requires you to adjust the volume of each device individually when casting to a speaker group. Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

All good things must come to an end, and that includes the ability to use Google’s multi-room casting for seamless audio control, one of the features found to infringe Sonos’ patents.

After a trade commission in favor of Sonos . judged yesterday, Google posted on his Nest Forums about immediate changes in the speaker group feature. Google is rolling out software tweaks so that the audiocast features don’t infringe on the five patents that caused all of this.

The bottom line: you can no longer adjust the volume on all devices within a Google Cast homegroup with a simple finger gesture. Instead, you need to adjust the volume slider on each of the connected smart speakers and displays within that particular group individually.

One of the benefits of choosing your Android smartphone as the home controller in a Google household is that pressing the volume knob on the outside also controls the volume on each speaker that contributes to the homegroup. But that also goes away and you can no longer use the shortcut to turn the volume down.

Google writes that most speaker groups should continue to function as expected, unless you’re using JBL and Lenovo devices, which use a different casting protocol. JBL and Lenovo devices must have firmware version 1.52.272222 or later in order to work.

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

A small group of people need to install a “Device Utility App” or DUA to receive software updates. If one of your devices falls into that category, you’ll see a prompt, presumably in the Google Home app, to download and install the DUA. That helps ensure that your devices stay connected to your home Wi-Fi network and are running the latest firmware. Setting up new Google Home products also includes installing the DUA.

People are upset if the replies to Google’s post on the Nest forums are any indication. Some people are even asking for a refund, arguing that it takes away one of the friendliest features of Google Casting. “This ‘update’ breaks all the purposes and functionality of using your devices to listen to music,” wrote one forum member. “I am physically disabled and have bought special devices to be able to control them with my voice,” says another.

My house is covered with casting equipment (it’s my job!), so I went ahead and tested the multiroom situation myself. The first time I tried it out was on what I’ll call an “obsolete” homegroup that I created a long time ago. It contains five speakers placed around my downstairs space. While I was casting music from Spotify, there were no options to control the sound when I pressed the phone’s button, and the Google Assistant claimed that lowering the volume with a voice command was “not available”.

It’ll be interesting to see if more “fixes” roll out in the next two months, which is how long Google has before being banned from importing devices that violate Sonos patents (including Nest speakers, Chromecast streaming sticks and Pixel phones). But the company already had a contingency plan — the software tweaks mentioned above — that was approved by the judge who issued the preliminary ruling last August, and what we’re seeing here is likely the result of all that.

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