It took a lot longer than anyone expected, but Sonos finally began rolling out Google Assistant support for its Sonos One and Sonos Beam smart speakers on Tuesday.
I got a sneak peek at the new capabilities at a demo in Palo Alto during Google I/O and came away impressed, with one caveat: You’ll need to choose one or the other digital assistant for each Sonos speaker in your home. You won’t be able to say “Hey Google” in one breath and summon “Alexa” with the next—unless you’re talking to different speakers.
Still, a single system that can support multiple assistants is an impressive accomplishment, and representatives from both Sonos and Google emphasized repeatedly that the long development cycle was due to the very high bar both companies had set for the user experience.
Continuity of control was easily the most impressive element of the entire demo: You can ask Google Assistant to start a song on one Sonos speaker, for example, and then ask Alexa on another speaker to identify the song that’s playing. The reverse scenario is also possible.
Michael Brown / IDG
The Sonos One (shown here) and the Sonos Beam (shown up top) smart speakers can now host either Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, and both assistants can coexist in the same Sonos system.
At launch, users will be able to use voice commands to request a song to start playing on Spotify, YouTube Music, Google Play Music, Pandora, Tidal, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and Deezer. And they’ll be able to use voice commands to skip to the next track in the playlist, change the volume, or pause the music playing on any of the music services that Sonos currently supports. Apple Music users will be able to use AirPlay 2 to start a song on that platform, and then use Google Assistant to go to the next track or adjust the volume.
As you can already do with Alexa on the Sonos One and Sonos Beam, you’ll be able to use Google Assistant to start music playing on any Sonos speaker, whether or not that model has a mic (but you’ll need to have at least one Sonos One or Sonos Beam on your network).
If you have a Sonos Beam connected to a TV that supports HDMI’s ARC and CEC features, you’ll be able to use Google Assistant to turn the TV on and off, adjust the volume, and switch the audio source from TV to music. With a Chromecast Ultra plugged into the TV, you’ll also be able to use Google Assistant to request movie titles available from streaming services.
Finally, you’ll be able to do all the other things a Google Home speaker is capable of, ranging from setting timers and alarms to requesting daily briefs and asking for directions that can be forwarded to your Android phone. And if you use Google Assistant to control your smart home, the Sonos One and Sonos Beam will be able to do that, too.
Sonos is rumored to also be working to support Apple’s Siri digital assistant on its smart speakers, and a company press release includes this quote from Sonos CEO Patrick Spence: “We imagine a day where we’ll have multiple voice assistants operating concurrently on the same device.” Today, you can only use Siri on an iPhone or iPad to control Sonos speakers that support AirPlay 2 (specifically, the Sonos One, Beam, Playbase, and the second-generation Play:5).
Google Assistant is being rolled out as a free update to U.S. consumers on Tuesday, while residents of the U.K., Germany, Canada, Australia, France, and The Netherlands will get the integration in July. Additional countries will receive the update on a rolling basis in the coming months.