Pixel Users Experience Smart Home Problems, Google Blames Sonos

A photo of a Sonos speaker in the grass

A Sonos in the green grass, rather than in a Google Assistant smart home.
Photo: Adam Clark Estes / Gizmodo

Google and Sonos have been fighting for quite some time in patent court, and now, Google is blaming Sonos for several smart home gadget activation errors that have recently befallen Pixel users, even those outside of the Sonos ecosystem. Sonos, in turn, says this is all Google’s fault for infringing its patents.

Initially spotted by 9to5Google, a blog post in the Google Nest community forums lays out the issue that’s been affecting some Pixel users who also have Sonos speakers within their home’s connected ecosystem. Google writes:

Unfortunately, because of an interruption caused by Sonos, a small number of you using Pixel phones in the US and Canada may be unable to set up devices at this time. We are hopeful that this is a temporary decision that only impacts a small number of you.

The issue happens like this: if you have a device registered within your Google Assistant-led household that hasn’t been on wifi for a while, the Google Home app might ask you to reactivate the device once it’s turned back on.

It’s not clear from the post which smart devices or generations of the Pixel are affected by this issue, though it seems to extend beyond Sonos-made devices. Google mentions a fix for Google TV/Android TV devices. However, it doesn’t indicate whether this affects folks specifically with a Sonos speaker inside a smart home with other connected devices.

Google offers a few fixes if you do run into this issue. You can use the Device Utility app to get your stuff back online if you’re outside the US or Canada. But if you’re in the US or Canada, you’ll need to call or chat with Google’s customer service for help.

I reached out to Google to ask whether this affected anyone who doesn’t have a Sonos device within their smart homes. Google responded with the same statement it offered to 9to5Google on the matter, attributed to a spokesperson:

This decision temporarily impacts a small number of Pixel users who set up a speaker or display for the first time with the Device Utility App. We will work with them to minimize disruption. Our support teams are on hand to fix any issues they have and if needed, we will send replacement devices or offer a Google store credit. Over the years, we have worked hard to make sure that our shared customers would have a positive experience and are disappointed that Sonos continues to use the legal system in a way that deliberately creates issues for these users.

I also asked Sonos for a statement and received the same bit a representative sent to TechHive:

Google’s Pixel disruption is the direct result of its decision to infringe Sonos’ patents rather than license them, as the International Trade Commission ruled. It is entirely Google’s decision to inflict further harm to its customers rather than behave responsibly, and it’s the height of arrogance to try to blame the company whose innovations it’s misappropriating.

This really does feel like two parents squabbling back and forth, at this point. At the very least, Google made an official statement that it will help you out if you’re experiencing the issues mentioned above. 9to5Google also theorizes that the underlying problem could be something as menial as a firmware issue with the Pixel, which makes this theater all the more worthy of a face palm.

It’s a precarious time for Sonos and Google Assistant users, who have been wondering if they’ll have to swap out their smart home ecosystems for something more … neutral? Earlier this year, the ITC found Google to have infringed on Sonos’ audio patents, which changed how Google speaker devices do audio broadcasting within home groups. To move away from its reliance on third parties, Sonos is also launching its own digital assistant. However, it will exist alongside Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant, which still comes preloaded on some Sonos speakers.