It might be the longest, most excruciating waiting period ever: In 2017, Sonos delighted its customers when it announced its plans to go all-in with voice-assistant technology. It promised that it would stay true to its service-agnostic philosophy by integrating with both Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant, and didn’t rule out working with other services as well.
Sonos certainly delivered quickly on the Alexa integration, but as the months have passed, those who have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Google Assistant have had to find a relaxing playlist and work on their patience. Initially promised for 2018, Sonos had only announced its intention of creating a limited beta program to test Google’s A.I. on Sonos devices by the end of last year.
At last, however, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel: Google officially added Sonos to its list of Google Assistant partners for 2019, and Sonos used CES to demo the integration for the show’s attendees. We’d hardly call this cause for celebration — at least not yet — but it’s at least proof that the required development is mostly complete. Saying, “Hey Google,” in the presence of a Sonos One or Sonos Beam actually produces a result. It means that Sonos is almost ready to deliver. Of course, in what has become a pattern with this integration, Sonos is still not ready to offer up a firm launch date.
Sonos has said that the ultimate aim is for Google Assistant to let you control every single one of the platform’s supported music services, but that may well take much more time. For its demo, the company only showed that Pandora and Google Play Music were able to respond to requests, which might make Spotify fans a bit nervous. We’ve also learned that integration with Google Assistant is something of a one-way street. You can choose to use Google, or you can choose to use Alexa, but not both. Well, sort of.
Apparently, it’s a tall order making a smart speaker work with more than one assistant, which explains why companies like Marshall have opted to produce twin versions of the same speakers, one for each assistant. But that’s not Sonos’s style. It’s not going to make you buy a special version of Sonos One just to run Google Assistant. What it can’t do — for now — is give you access to both assistants from the same Sonos smart speaker. Each Sonos smart speaker, e.g. the Sonos One or Sonos Beam, must be set up to work with only one smart assistant at a time.
While that does mean you’ll have to remember that your bedroom Sonos One only responds to “Alexa” and your living room Sonos Beam will remain deaf until you say, “Hey Google,” (if that’s how you’ve chosen to configure them), you’ll still be able to control your whole system from any Google or Alexa device, be they Sonos-made or third-party devices, like Google Home, or Amazon Echo. Sonos calls this “continuity” of control, and it’s the kind of attention to detail that Sonos is known for.
Here’s hoping that 2019 proves to be the year of voice control nirvana for Sonos, and its very patient customers.
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