Rita El Khoury / Android Authority
The technology world was shaken late last week by a ruling of the US International Trade Commission saying that Google had infringed on Sonos’ patents. After a couple of years of legal back-and-forth, this was a difficult blow to Google. A US import ban on many products is looming on the horizon, and a few crucial Nest and Chromecast features were deemed illegally used. The company has explained several of the imposed limitations in a post on the Nest community blog. One of these concerns the setup of some Google Home/Nest speakers and Chromecasts.
Of course, the timing was perfect — I wish I could convey the extra sarcasm in my tone — for me. I moved into a new apartment about a month ago and was dragging my feet to set up my older Google Home Mini in my bedroom. Hey, in my defense, I had to move the bed to plug it in. So when I heard that the setup process was about to get worse, I thought I still had time to do it right. Alas, no.
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And so started a multi-hour ordeal of trying and failing to make the little coral puck connect to my Wi-Fi. Spoiler: It worked in the end, but it was a horrid experience. Let’s go through what happened, step by step.
A terrible setup experience
I plugged the Mini in and saw it pop up in the Google Home app, which asked if I wanted to set it up. After accepting, the animation spun for a while then told me I couldn’t carry on; I had to download a new app called Device Utility and continue there. I followed the link, got the app, and gave it all the permissions it asked for. Then it told me to turn off Wi-Fi to help it detect nearby speakers. “Curious,” I thought, but still did as asked. That was never the case with the Home app connection process, but I suppose one of the Sonos patents has to do with this seamless setup approach.
Device Utility detected the Mini and started spinning. I thought I was in the clear, but up popped an error saying it couldn’t connect and that I should get closer. My Pixel 5 was literally two inches away. I shrugged and tried again. I’m used to ‘smart’ devices acting very dumb on multiple occasions, so this didn’t surprise me. But when the error showed up again immediately without the app even pretending to look for the Mini, twice, thrice, five times, I was a little dubious.
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I thought the app must have cached this connection error, so I cleared its data and tried again. Same immediate pop-up. I uninstalled the app and reinstalled it. Same pop-up. I hard-reset the Mini and tried again. Same pop-up. (I regret not taking a screenshot of the error now, but I was very frustrated and didn’t think of it then.)
The comment section on the Device Utility app listing shows everyone is facing these issues.
At this point, I was getting worried. Sure, I had bought this Google Home Mini many years ago, and it wouldn’t cost much to replace, but it was still functional last month. Plus, I shouldn’t pay to upgrade a device that was nuked by a lawsuit I had nothing to do with.
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority
A small sample of frustrated Device Utility users.
So I grabbed my husband’s phone and tried to set the Mini again from the Home app. It also redirected me to Device Utility and threw the same error. After losing a couple of hours of my Sunday, I gave up. My husband had given up many attempts ago. A look at the comment section of the Device Utility app told me I was far from the only one who faced this issue: Everyone had been stuck in similar error loops.
It finally worked, but not through Device Utility
I decided to give the Mini another chance this morning, starting from scratch (Mini reset, Device Utility uninstalled) on another phone. Although there was no suggestion chip to set up the Mini in the Home app, I first tried to manually add it there. I tapped the + button, then Set up device > New device. The app saw the Mini and, surprisingly, went through the process without a hitch. It didn’t ask me to install Device Utility or make me go through that special brand of hell. The Mini was added to my home, recognized my voice and Google Assistant commands, and was as good as new.
Other users have bypassed the issue by using an iPhone to set up their speakers and Chromecasts, as the Device Utility app hasn’t become mandatory on iOS yet.
You can bypass Device Utility by using an iPhone, or hoping the setup still goes through the regular Home app.
I reset the Mini once more to see if it was a fluke — oh, the things we do for science — and the setup still went entirely through the Home app. At this point, I’m not going to tempt my luck once more. My speaker is working and I ain’t messin’ with that. I’m inclined to think Google has temporarily disabled the need for Device Utility until it fixes the app’s bugs. That’s the most logical explanation for why I was always being redirected to it yesterday, but not today.
I refuse to think that Google had to scramble at the last minute to release this messy app experience. It must’ve known the ruling was coming and anticipated the negative result, even as a ‘just in case’ option. There’s no reason why this app should be this buggy for everyone trying it, and no reason why it should be sitting at a 1-star rating average from everyone who’s used it. Alas, this is Google, and it likely waited until the last minute indeed.
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