Google brings back volume controls for speaker groups to Pixels with Android 15 Beta 2

Google brings back volume controls for speaker groups to Pixels with Android 15 Beta 2
The second beta of Android 15, launched last week, brought some long-awaited features for Pixel users. While the revamped volume panel UI came as no surprise, one feature was unexpected: the return of speaker group volume controls while casting. This is a function that had been removed due to a legal dispute with Sonos.

As detailed in a recent Android Authority post, when casting audio from a phone to a speaker group – a collection of Assistant-enabled devices like Nest Hubs set up in the Google Home app – users can usually control the volume of the entire group with their phone's volume keys. However, this functionality had been missing on Pixel devices for some time. This was due to a lawsuit filed by Sonos against Google for alleged patent infringement. The legal battle prompted Google to disable several features, including speaker group volume controls on Pixel phones, as a precautionary measure.

For Pixel users, this meant that controlling the volume of speaker groups was only possible while the casting app remained open. Closing the app meant losing control of the group volume. Meanwhile, other Android devices remained unaffected, as the lawsuit was exclusively against Google.

However, a change occurred in late 2023 when a California judge overturned the jury verdict that had favored Sonos. Google responded by promptly restoring the ability to add Nest devices to multiple speaker groups. Despite this, the volume control function remained disabled on Pixel phones until now.

With the arrival of Android 15 Beta 2, this functionality has finally been restored. According to the source, Google had introduced a flag named config_volumeAdjustmentForRemoteGroupSessions in 2021, which controlled platform-level volume adjustments for grouped devices. While this flag was enabled by default in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), it was overridden for Pixel devices. This has now been reversed in the Android 15 Beta 2 builds for Pixel phones, bringing back the speaker group volume controls.

Cast volume controls on a speaker group (Pixel running Android 15 Beta 2.1)

Though this is a welcome change for Pixel users, there is one casting-related feature that remains missing: stream expansion. This allows users to add more devices to the cast by using the media output switcher. While this feature is available on several non-Pixel devices, it is not yet present on Pixel phones, even those running Android 15 Beta 2. The return of this function is anticipated, but the timeline remains uncertain.

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