After months of beta testing, Sonos has finally rolled out Google Assistant to its One and Beam smart speakers.
While both devices already work with Amazon’s Alexa for voice control, Sonos is the first company that found a way to bring multiple voice assistants to the same sound system and give owners a choice between the two. Marshall, for instance, has instead produced twin versions of the same speakers, one for each assistant.
In practice this means you’ll still have to remember that your Sonos One in the kitchen only responds to “Hey Google” and that the Sonos Beam in your living room won’t react until you say “Alexa”, if that’s how they’re set up.
This is not a perfect solution as, ideally, the best user experience would be for you to be able to call upon either digital assistant on any compatible speaker, and the wake word itself would be the “switch” telling the unit whether to call upon Alexa or Google Assistant.
However, it is now possible to control the entire Sonos home setup using voice, regardless whether they’re Sonos speakers, Amazon Echos or Google Homes.
The software update can be downloaded for free from various app stores, but only in the United States so far. It will be released in the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Canada and Australia in July.
Why would you want to use both assistants in the first place? You may already be using Google Assistant on your phone to check appointments and ask for directions. Asking questions on your smart speakers might just make things a bit easier. Or, you would like to queue a series on your Android TV that is linked with Google Assistant. Alexa, on the other hand, could still be used to shop on Amazon or listen to music.
The other reasons are pure consumer preference. While Alexa might be the whizz of online shopping, a recent survey showed that is was Google’s digital assistant that performed best at answering users’ questions, beating Amazon’s offering in five categories.
The additional digital assistant news comes as little surprise, however. Sonos already promised to bring Google Assistant to its Sonos One speaker when the device was first announced in 2017, but making a smart speaker work with more than one assistant has proved to be a challenging and time-consuming endeavour.
Sonos had to work with Google to build a new platform that would blend Sonos, Google and music services. The Sonos One and Beam speakers can already be used to stream tracks from iPhones using AirPlay 2 or Spotify using the Sonos app – with the Google Assistant integration, you can now ask Google Assistant what song is playing, for instance.
While you still won’t be able to use a single speaker interchangeably by saying either “Alexa” or “Hey Google”, the addition of Google at least offers Sonos owners a choice, allowing them to select their favourite voice assistant.