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Sonos is now compatible with Google Assistant, but Apple Music must wait

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The long wait is finally over. Sonos is rolling out Google Assistant support to its full line of Wi-Fi connected speakers, including the Sonos One and Sonos Beam smart speakers, which will now give people the option of using Google Assistant or Alexa as their preferred voice assistant.

For those with Sonos speakers, but no Sonos One or Beam, a Google Assistant speaker can now be used to control your Sonos setup: The Google Home app will recognize all of your Sonos components, letting you ask for them by name.

Most of the music

Initially, Google Assistant will be able to directly control Spotify, Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Tidal, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Pandora, and Deezer. Apple Music and several others, however, are not part of the launch. Sonos said it was “rapidly working” to expand Google Assistant compatibility to the remainder of the many music services it supports, but no date was offered for when this might happen.

For these unsupported music services, playback voice commands like “play,” “pause,” and “next track” will still work, but you’ll need to start the listening session from the Sonos app or use Alexa if you have that voice assistant already configured for use with Sonos.

Pick your partner

The addition of Google Assistant to the Sonos ecosystem makes the Sonos One and Sonos Beam the first smart speakers that give users a choice of voice assistant. You won’t be able to run Google Assistant and Alexa on a single smart speaker simultaneously, but you’ll be able to switch between the two assistants within the Sonos app any time you wish.

Moreover, if you own multiple Sonos smart speakers — say, a Sonos One in the Kitchen and a Sonos Beam in the TV room — you can have Alexa listening in the kitchen, while Google Assistant monitors the TV room, and Sonos claims no conflicts will arise. The Sonos system is voice assistant agnostic in a sense. For instance, if you were sitting in the TV room and said, “Hey Google, play today’s hits in the kitchen,” that would work, even though the kitchen speaker is tied to Alexa. Even better, you could then walk over to the kitchen and say, “Alexa, skip” and the next track in the playlist would play. Sonos calls this “continuity,” and it ensures you’re never locked into the control option you started with — commands issued via the Sonos app can be adjusted via Google Assistant, adjusted again via Alexa, and modified even further via the Spotify Connect feature if you happen to be using the Spotify app.

Intriguingly, when asked why Google Assistant and Alexa couldn’t run simultaneously on one Sonos smart speaker, the company didn’t rule it out, telling us, “There’s currently no precedent for multiple assistants on a singular device […] we’re going to start with the option to choose per speaker and learn.”

Room roundup

Sonos speakers and components all have labels, like “living room,” or “basement,” and individual speakers can be grouped within the Sonos app so that the same audio is played in perfect sync between each speaker. This is one area that isn’t perfectly coordinated between Sonos and Google: The Google Home app will show you all of your Sonos components, including their respective labels, but you won’t be able to see how Sonos has grouped them. So occasionally you may be surprised when you direct a single Sonos speaker to play Eminem in the master bedroom, via the Google Home app, and Rap God starts blasting around the entire house.

Hey, Google

In practice, using Google Assistant on a Sonos smart speaker will be almost like using Google Assistant on a Google speaker, like the Google Home or Home Mini.  At launch, however, there will be no support for calling, online purchases, voice match, interpreter mode, or setting routines in the Google Home app. Aaron Goldstein, senior product manager at Sonos, tells Digital Trends that the company is working on these features for a future update.

Popular Google Assistant features like conversational commands, broadcasts, and continued conversations are supported, as is the ability to control Chromecast devices — an especially useful ability for those with a Sonos Beam connected to a TV that also has a Google Chromecast device. Such a setup would rarely require the need to reach for a physical remote because TV functions can be voice controlled via the Beam’s HDMI-CEC connection.

The Google Assistant on Sonos will also work with the growing universe of compatible smart home devices, from thermostats to lightbulbs.

If you don’t own a Sonos smart speaker, a Google Home Mini is now a new, low-priced way to gain voice control over your entire Sonos system, in much the same way that Echo Dot owners have been doing with Sonos for a while now.

The addition of Google Assistant will be done through a free app update. For now, that software update is only available in the U.S., however, Sonos plans to add the U.K., Germany, Canada, Australia, France, and The Netherlands in July.

Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
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