Google has introduced a new tool for transitioning media from one smart device to another. Its stream transfer feature can transition music, videos, and podcasts between compatible devices. The transitions can be managed through the Google Home app, which acts as a hub for all smart products and can direct content to play on specific devices or groups of devices.
Users can also use a Google Assistant voice command to move between devices by asking Google to start playing the current stream on a different piece of hardware. For instance, you would move music from a smart speaker in the kitchen to one in the living room by saying, “Hey Google, move the music to the living room speaker.”
We find this an interesting maneuver from Google, inasmuch as seamless continuation of stream listening is already promoted as a feature of Google Assistant. Half of the RAIN editorial team uses Google Home (smart speakers in various rooms) and Google Assistant (voice control of Android phones). In near-daily testing of multi-device continuity, our anecdotal experience is that the usability has declined over time in these two main ways:
Morning news stream: Starting on a Home device and continuing on the phone, or vice-versa. Anecdotally, it worked well when the Home was new (18 months ago) and now is usually in error, starting a mid-stream news podcast from the beginning through the second device.
Podcasting generally: Rampant continuity errors when transferring from Home-to-phone, in order to finish a podcast while mobile (outdoor walk, or in-car via Android Auto).
Having a “transfer” command feels like a useful Band-Aid to keep the listening continuous. But it feels like the real transfer is from Google’s product team to consumers, forcing us to learn new behavior in order to fix Assistant’s broken behavior. Imagine if Netflix (which transfers watching continuity perfectly in our experience) failed in this regard and then put the chore of keeping things straight on its subscribers. Smart speakers are supposed to be smart.
Stream transfer supports Google’s YouTube Music, as well as third-party platforms such as Spotify and Pandora.