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Google’s Sonos lawsuit dodging could let other phone makers do what Pixel can’t

You might think a Google phone would be the best choice for controlling your Google-branded speakers, but that’s not the case. necessarily true: Google’s actions have potentially opened the door for other manufacturers to do what the Pixel legally cannot, writes Android sleuth Mishaal Rahman at Esper.

Last week, we wrote how “your Google home speakers are about to get a little worse because Sonos sued and won.” If you’re using a Google Pixel, that’s true – among other things, you won’t be able to control the volume of a multi-zone Google Cast speaker group. Indeed, the US International Trade Commission ruled that Google had copied Sonos technology and threatened to block imports unless Google implemented five specific software changes. One of the Sonos patents dealt specifically with volume control for a multi-zone speaker array.

But when Rahman delved into the Android 12 code, he discovered that the path Google’s remotely disabled speaker group volume control is incredibly basic: Google simply sets a single value from “true” to “false” on its own Pixel phones. Rahman writes:

the second patch appears designed to allow Google to ship Pixel phones without the ability to control the volume of speaker group sessions remotely. But it also leaves OEMs an easy way to ship their own devices with the feature enabled. All an OEM would have to do is create AOSP with GMS and leave the default (“true”) for the config_volumeAdjustmentForRemoteGroupSessions flag in place.

It seems that if Samsung or Xiaomi (currently the world’s two major Android makers) want their phones to control the volume of an entire group of speakers (which a Google Pixel can’t do since the last update ), they don’t have to. lift all extra fingers. They just have to avoid turning it off intentionally. And Rahman says that – at least in beta – the upcoming Android 12L also works that way.

(For the uninitiated, “building AOSP with GMS” just means taking the base version of Android that Google gives manufacturers for free, along with the Google services that the company typically licenses, which most Android manufacturers Android phones do before Android skinning anyway with their own additions.)

None of this means that a phone maker will necessarily accept Google on this possibility. For all I know – I’m no lawyer – Sonos could just do an about-face and sue them as well, using its win over Google as precedent. But it’s all very intriguing to think about.


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