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Android 15 Beta 2 fully restores Cast volume controls for speaker groups on Pixel phones

Google previously removed the feature due to a Sonos lawsuit, but it's finally back!

Published onMay 20, 2024

  • With the release of Android 15 Beta 2, Pixel phones can once again control the volume of Google Home speaker groups while casting.
  • Google intentionally disabled this functionality on Pixel phones back in late 2021 due to a legal dispute with Sonos.
  • In late 2023, Google announced it would bring back several features they had to remove, following a judge’s overturning of a jury verdict that was in favor of Sonos.

Last week, Google announced the second beta of Android 15, bringing long-awaited features like Private Space, App Pairs, Predictive Back, and more. The second beta also quietly introduced a revamped volume panel UI, but we weren’t too surprised by this since we already knew it was coming. However, the second beta surprisingly brought back a volume-related feature we weren’t sure was ever going to return to Pixel phones: the ability to control the volume of speaker groups while casting!

When you create a speaker group consisting of one or more Assistant-enabled devices in the Google Home app, you’re able to cast audio to that group from your phone using a Cast-enabled app. For example, let’s say I make a speaker group named “Nest Hubs” that consists of my bedroom Nest Hub and my living room Nest Hub. If I open the YouTube Music app, start playing a song, and then tap the cast icon, I can select “Nest Hubs” to start playback on both my Nest Hubs simultaneously.

If I keep the YouTube Music app open, I can control the volume of my speaker group by pressing the volume keys on my phone. This functionality is available no matter what device I use. However, if I open another app while YouTube Music is casting, whether I’m able to still control the volume of my speaker group using my phone’s volume keys depends on what phone I’m using and what software version it’s running. If I’m using a Pixel phone that’s running a software version before Android 15 Beta 2, then I’m unable to control the volume of my speaker group unless I re-open the YouTube Music app. If I’m using a phone from any other manufacturer, then I won’t have any issues controlling the volume of my speaker group.

Android 15 Beta 2 speaker group volume control
Mishaal Rahman / Android Authority

The reason for this weird discrepancy is that Google intentionally blocked Pixel devices from being able to control the volume of Google Home speaker groups while casting. Google did this out of an abundance of caution while they were fighting a legal dispute. Back in 2020, speaker company Sonos sued Google for alleged patent infringement. This led to Google removing several features from its lineup of Nest speakers and smart displays but also led to them removing speaker group volume controls from Pixel phones. Other Android phones weren’t impacted by this change since only Google was named by Sonos in its lawsuit, which is why only Pixel phones have been unable to control the volume of speaker groups outside the app that’s casting.

Back in late 2023, though, a California judge overturned the jury verdict that favored Sonos. Google responded by immediately re-enabling the ability to add Nest speakers, displays, and Chromecast devices to multiple speaker groups. However, they never brought back the ability to control the volume of speaker groups from a Pixel phone, at least until now. With the release of last week’s Android 15 Beta 2, we can confirm that Google finally restored this functionality.

In late 2021, Google introduced the config_volumeAdjustmentForRemoteGroupSessions flag, which determines whether “platform level volume adjustments are enabled for remote sessions on grouped devices.” The default value of this flag is set to ‘true’ in AOSP, but it was specifically overridden to ‘false’ on Google’s Android builds for Pixel devices. That’s no longer the case in the Android 15 Beta 2 builds for Pixel phones, though, which is why speaker group volume controls finally work.

One other casting-related feature that’s still missing on Pixel phones (but is present on other Android devices) is stream expansion. When you cast music to any speaker and then open the media output switcher, you should be able to select additional devices to cast to. That’s the case on several non-Pixel devices that I checked, but it isn’t the case on any of my Pixel devices, even ones that are running Android 15 Beta 2. This functionality should hopefully also be restored on Pixel devices in the future, but we aren’t sure when that’ll happen.

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