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

TL; DR

  • With the release of Android 15 Beta 2, Pixel phones will once again be able to control the volume of Google Home speaker groups while casting.
  • Google deliberately disabled this functionality on Pixel phones in late 2021 due to a legal dispute with Sonos.
  • In late 2023, Google announced it would bring back several features it had to remove after a judge overturned a jury verdict 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 UI for the volume panel, but we weren’t too surprised by this as we already knew it was coming. However, the second beta surprisingly brought back a volume-related feature that we weren’t sure would ever return to Pixel phones: the ability to control the volume of speaker groups while casting!

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

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 regardless of which device I use. However, if I open another app while YouTube Music is casting, it depends on what phone I’m using and what software version I’m using and whether I can still control the volume of my speaker group with my phone’s volume keys. If I’m using a Pixel phone with a software version before Android 15 Beta 2, I can’t control the volume of my speaker group unless I reopen the YouTube Music app. When I use a phone from another manufacturer, I have no problems controlling the volume of my speaker group.

Android 15 Beta 2 volume control for speaker group

Mishaal Rahman / Android Authority

The reason for this strange discrepancy is that Google deliberately blocked Pixel devices from controlling the volume of Google Home speaker groups while casting. Google did this out of an abundance of caution while fighting a legal dispute. In 2020, speaker company Sonos sued Google for alleged patent infringement. This led to Google removing several features from its range of Nest speakers and smart displays, as well as removing volume controls for speaker groups from Pixel phones. Other Android phones were not affected by this change, as only Google was named by Sonos in the lawsuit. That’s why only Pixel phones haven’t been able to control the volume of speaker groups outside of the app that is casting.

But in late 2023, 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 last week’s release of Android 15 Beta 2, we can confirm that Google has finally restored this functionality.

At the end of 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’ in Google’s Android builds for Pixel devices. However, that’s no longer the case in the Android 15 Beta 2 builds for Pixel phones, which is why the speaker group volume buttons finally work.

Another casting-related feature still missing from Pixel phones (but present on other Android devices) is stream expansion. When you cast music to a speaker and then open the media output switch, you should be able to select additional devices to cast to. That’s the case on several non-Pixel devices I’ve checked, but it’s not the case on all of my Pixel devices, even those running Android 15 Beta 2. This functionality should hopefully also come to Pixel devices in the future. devices need to be restored, but we’re not sure when that will happen.

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