Google devices rank among the best smart speakers, but it looks like some just lost a major feature after a patent ruling against the tech giant in a case with Sonos.
Thursday, the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled against Google in a case brought by Sonos regarding patent infringement. Now, Google described the changes to its Nest Audio and Google Home speaker line to make sure it is in line with the result – and some users are not happy.
The most significant of the changes affect people with more than one speaker in their home, as the volume will now need to be adjusted individually for everyone, rather than doing it as a group. The speaker group volume will also not be adjustable using your phone’s volume controls in the Google Home app.
“Most speaker groups should continue to work as expected, unless you have a speaker group that contains other brands of Cast-based devices, like JBL or Lenovo, they should be on. Cast firmware version 1.52.272222 or higher “, indicates the second bullet.
Finally, “a small group of users” will need to use the “Device Utility application” to install their products and obtain updates. This seems to only apply to devices that haven’t been updated yet, so the people most likely to be affected haven’t bought one yet – or set up their Christmas present.
At the time of the verdict, Sonos warned that while Google could potentially have non-infringing patent designs approved by the ITC, the workarounds could be bad news for customers. In a statement, he said such actions could “degrade or eliminate the characteristics of the product in a way that circumvents the import ban” and that these changes “could sacrifice the consumer experience” in the process.
Instead, he urged Google to pay royalties for the feature – but the search giant apparently took the first option, regardless of how its users reacted.
It’s likely that many owners of a Nest Audio or Google Home device won’t be affected, as you would imagine that many users only have one smart speaker in their home. However, those who buy more than one are, by definition, the most enthusiastic customers of the business, and this decision may irritate them.
At the time of writing, the post announcing the changes has garnered 179 comments, and the overwhelming majority are not in favor of the situation. “Completely negates the reason I bought Google home speakers,” the top-rated review read. “I think a discount is in order, your devices no longer work as advertised and as sold,” he continues.
“Either get better lawyers and win the case, or pay Sonos a royalty, or start reimbursing clients,” echoed another.
As the post is on the Google Nest Community Blog, tags can be added to posts by anyone, and at the time of writing 12 unflattering terms have been added by aggrieved users, including “BaitAndSwitch” , “Cheapskates” and “False Advertising”.
While consumer reactions are almost always stronger online than in the real world, it’s clear that some of Google’s most loyal customers are upset and are looking for alternatives. Amazon might see this as a real opportunity to convert them into one of the best Alexa speakers instead.