Microsoft’s Xbox One gaming console isn’t even a year old – it hasn’t even been a year since Microsoft unveiled the console at its Xbox Revealed event last May. However, since its birth the console has already received a number of important updates designed to get it in fighting shape as Microsoft battles Sony’s PS4 for market share and the latest games. This past weekend the company confirmed that Xbox One users could expect a key audio improvement and a new opt-in program that should improve future updates for everyone.
This upcoming free Xbox One update will add just two features. The first is a new Sound Mixer option that users can customize to their liking. The idea is that users can finally decide which app they have open gets audio priority for themselves instead of having the console do it from them. Today, there’s no such system leaving most users stuck with sound effects and in-game music drowning out any audio that might be coming from the TV app or Xbox Music app that are both included on the console. Xbox One owners who frequently have audio chats running in the background as they play their favorite video games will also be able to set a custom audio level for that functionality as well. It’s not a huge new feature, but it does address a specific pain point of owning an Xbox One.
By default, this update also automatically adjusts the volume in open apps when users return to the Xbox One’s Home Screen. Users will be able to access Sound Mixer from the Settings app that is built into the Xbox One.
The May Xbox One Update, which presumably, users will get sometime later this month, also includes a new toggle for users to join the new Speech Recognition program. Essentially, Xbox One consoles that have been added to the program will have their speech patterns collected and sent to Microsoft for analysis. More specifically, participating users and consoles will have samples of their actual voice sent to Microsoft. The company is hoping that users will opt-into the program so that Microsoft can make Xbox One’s Kinect 2 sensor that much more accurate. That’s key as some Xbox One owners have complained loudly that it takes two or three tries for their console to effectively recognize an audio command. That’s a very bad thing considering there’s some functionality that’s only accessible through voice commands. For example, there’s no way for Xbox One owners to adjust the volume on their television set in the console’s interface itself.
Microsoft didn’t share the exact day Xbox One users who aren’t a part of the Xbox One Update Preview Program would get these features. However, in past months Microsoft has previewed updates to get feedback from users and then deployed that same update within the same month that it initially announced it. The company did confirm that all users can expect this update sometime in May.
In the post that announced the May Xbox One Update at Xbox Wire, Microsoft makes it clear that it values the feedback that it’s getting from users about the console and that it’s planning to continue using the feedback it’s receiving from its Xbox One Update Preview Program to continue improving on the Xbox One’s software.
So far, Microsoft has used these updates to steadily add to the Xbox One’s feature set. Past updates have included a version of the Xbox’s OneGuide for SmartGlass. This update allowed users to browse their console’s live channels for their favorite programs on their tablet or smartphone. There was also a new universal remote functionality for control cable boxes and DVRs. One update addressed the seriously lackluster state of the Xbox One’s original Friends and Party apps. That Party app still has issues, but it doesn’t fail nearly as often as the old version did. It also allows users to switch between chatting specifically with their friends no matter what game they’re playing and chatting with users who are playing the same multiplayer game as they are.
Read: Xbox One Review
Whether these updates are leading to increased sales remains unclear. Last month, reports from NPD Group confirmed that the Xbox One was trailing sales of the PS4 in the United States. The understanding is that the console is also behind the PS4 in sales worldwide. Mostly, that’s because the Xbox One is only available in 13 countries. That’s three to four times less than the amount of countries where users can buy a PS4. Microsoft has plans to introduce the Xbox One in 26 more countries, including China, this fall.
Of course, the Xbox One’s pricer bundles certainly isn’t helping either. The Xbox One costs $499 but includes a free game. That’s $100 more than the PS4. The PS4 doesn’t include a game, which makes the price comparison relative. Still, that definitely has to be having an effect on sales.
Xbox One bundles in the United States include a copy of the Forza 5 racing simulation or Titanfall, the Xbox One’s first exclusive high-profile multiplayer title.