Tag Archives | Sonos

Sonos for Android is on Its Way

Sonos, maker of those neat networked music players, offers a touchscreen remote control for its systems, letting owners choose local and Internet-based music and route it to one or more Sonos boxes in their home. But the most popular touchscreen remotes for Sonos aren’t Sonos touchscreen remotes–they’re iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads running the company’s iOS app.

Starting soon, owners of Android phones will be able to get on the fun. Sonos is readying the Sonos Controller for Android, a free app for Google’s operating system. A Sonos representative told me that it’s generally similar to the iPhone version, but with a few new twists: For instance, it’s designed to take better advantage of the larger screens on many Android handsets. And when you’re running it, the volume buttons on your phone will control the Sonos system, not the phone itself. (Apple doesn’t provide a way for developers to grab control of the volume buttons on iOS devices.)

Sonos says that it plans to release the Android app in late March.

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Three Things I Want From Sonos

The Sonos S5 ($399) was one of my 2009 boxes of the year. With good reason. Sonos is a sophisticated but easy to implement and easy to operate whole-home audio solution. Featuring content from both our local music collections and various online sources. The S5 broke new ground in the Sonos lineup by integrating rich, powerful speakers into their connected receiver. Sonos is not an inexpensive solution (especially since you won’t stop with just one room), but it’s clearly the best at what it does. Yet, what’s next?

A Sonos email survey I received a few days ago alluded to several interesting expansion possibilities. As I still have a loaner unit on hand, I’ve got a few ideas….

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Sonos’s All-in-One Connected Speaker System

I’ve been talking to the Sonos folks for years. And everyone I know who owns their connected music system absolutely raves about it. Yet, I’ve never joined in given the steep price of entry (starting at ~$1000) and BYOS (bring your own speakers) requirement. Fortunately, Sonos has been listening and their new all-in-one S5 ($400) begins shipping next week.

In what’s become an annual tradition, I recently met up with Sonos CEO John MacFarlane to take a look at the new product. The S5 is a bit larger than the Bose SoundDock II ($300), weighing in at about 9lbs. But it packs in so much more, including the the components for the Sonos mesh network to stream DRM-free iTunes, Pandora, Rhapsody, etc with sound that John says “crushes” Bose. He went on to tell me that their primary focus with this all-in-one unit was nailing audio quality, going as far as consulting with Skywalker Ranch on performance. While I’m no audiophile, the full-bodied music emanating into a crowded Marriott lounge sounded quite good. And, in terms of volume, I have a feeling Sonos could have overtaken the room had we cranked it. (The S5 houses 5 speakers, including a sub woofer.)

The target audience for the S5 is music-loving iPhone or iPod Touch owners, who would use their handheld (and the free Sonos app) to control their entire Sonos infrastructure. (Although, one could optionally pick up a dedicated Sonos controller, starting at $250.) And John alluded to support for a pair of additional mobile platforms coming next year.


The S5 provides integrated WiFi functionality yet, to maintain high availability audio streaming, Sonos units will only talk to each and hardwired connections. So, for true wireless freedom, many potential S5 owners will need to pick up a Zone Bridge ($99) to take the whole thing airborne. Given current networking reliability and my own experiences streaming video wirelessly (high def, no less), I’m not sure this is necessary. So while Sonos will indeed control the horizontal and vertical to ensure the music never stops, I wonder if this additional hardware requirement does more harm than good in providing another barrier to entry.

Of course, there are many ways to crack the home audio streaming nut. Some have AppleTV connected to a home theater system which is controlled via Apple’s iPhone remote while others cling to their aging Squeezeboxes. Not to mention, there are scores of nice, affordable iPhone/Touch speaker docks and clock “radios” these days. However, for my current minimalist gypsy lifestyle, Internet radio habit, and desire to keep my phone available as a phone, the portable Sonos S5 may be the proper solution to stream audio around my place. I only wish it could speak directly to my wireless router.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)


Sonos Does Twitter

The Twitter Everywhere meme is popular this week, and Sonos joins in by announcing (via Twitter) that soon owners of the multi-room music streaming experience will be able to tweet from their Sonos controllers. The new feature empowers listeners to share artist tracks with one click, or edit automated tweets before publishing.

I love this experimentation phase for Twitter. I don’t know that I have any interest in regularly tweeting my musical tastes, or in accessing Twitter from devices that don’t give me the full conversational experience. However, the idea of using Twitter in broadcast-only or receive-only mode is certainly gaining traction. Like PiMPY, the tweeting washing machine, it suggests new possibilities for both lifecasting and automated data collection.

With regard to Sonos specifically, my guess is that the company’s customer base is music-obsessed and sophisticated enough to make the new Twitter function appealing. The application will work from both the new Sonos Controller hardware and and their iPhone app later this year.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)


Sonos Upgrades and Downsizes Its Controller

SonosSonos, the company whose multi-room music system is one the most thoughtfully-designed products in all of consumer electronics, just retired the remote control that’s been a part of its offering from the start in favor of an all-new design.

The old model worked well, but it was big and brick-like and maybe even a little clunky by Sonos standards, with a design that drew obvious inspiration from old-school iPods:

Old Sonos

The new Sonos controller performs the same functions as the old one, but it’s a pretty dramatic upgrade in terms of industrial design and user interface. It’s the size of a thick PDA, and sports an aluminum case that gives it an extremely solid feel. Most of the old controller’s buttons are gone–the new one features a 3.5-inch color screen and a touch interface that was snappy and intuitive when I tried it at a Sonos event last night:


The new controller goes for $349, and includes the dock; that’s a significant price break over the old model, which cost $399 and made you pay $40 extra for the dock. Owners of iPhones and iPod Touches can choose to control Sonos systems with the excellent free iPhone app instead. (Its interface isn’t exactly the same as the one on the new controller, but has a generally similar feel.) And with an 8GB iPod Touch going for $229, I’ll bet some cost-conscious Sonos buyers will get their systems sans controller and buy a Touch instea.


Sonos on Your iPhone

The iPhone is many things, and holds the promise of becoming even more of them. And one of its emerging applications is to serve as the world’s ultimate programmable remote control–one with an infinitely customizable screen, a cool touch interface, and a direct connection to the Internet. I think the day may come when using iPhones and iPhone-like phones as remotes is every much a core purpose of these gizmos as making phone calls on them.

Case in point: Today, Sonos, manufacturer of the cool multi-room wireless music system, has released an application that lets you control its players from an iPhone or iPod Touch. It replicates the functionality of the company’s $400 remote control for free, and did so very well in a quick demo I got from the Sonos folks–you can wander around your house and use the iPhone to select the music that plays on Sonos’s little streaming music boxes. More on it after I’ve had a chance to try it for myself….

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