As great as Sonos is, there have always been a few limitations: You can only control the system through the dedicated app, and there was no Siri-like voice control. In the near future, you’ll be able to do both.
“Technology has made access to music convenient, but the experience crappy,” says Joy Howard, CMO of Sonos, as she summed up the mobile-centric state of music listening today during a press briefing. The event showcased Sonos’ latest and greatest product developments, including a revamped app with some new features, a unique partnership with music streaming service Spotify, and a focus toward the connected home via voice control capabilities using Amazon’s Alexa personal digital assistant as well as other partnerships.
Sonos’ integration with Amazon’s cloud-based Alexa service should be a big win for Sonos fans, but isn’t a huge surprise. After all, Amazon’s Echo, Dot, and Tap speakers have been hits since the Echo first launched last year, with consumers quickly embracing the convenience of voice control, especially for use with music-streaming services. Following the release of software-development kits, there’s been a veritable gold rush of companies jumping on the bandwagon to integrate with Alexa — this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was dominated by Alexa-mania.
Sonos says voice control will be enabled through a software update in early 2017 that, impressively, will be both free and available to every current model of the company’s line of Internet-connected speakers — a rare consumer-forward move to postpone obsolescence that we heartily applaud. While Sonos hasn’t released a full menu of available controls, owners of any Echo device, as well as the latest-generation Amazon TV, will be able to ask for specific tracks, pause, skip, and play, and call up streaming services, among other capabilities. We think it’ll be a particularly compelling partnership, especially as, anecdotally, we’ve found our Sonos system sidelined since installing an Echo and discovering how the ease of voice control makes using an app and smartphone to listen to music feel especially tedious.
Another enticing announcement from Sonos’ event is the launch of a wireless audio remote from Lutron. Virtually identical to the Pico remotes used for the company’s excellent line of Caseta Wireless lighting systems (which we've recommended here), this audio-specific one allows for quick access to basic controls — play/pause, volume up/down, and skip track — in a sturdy palm-sized remote that can be placed within arms reach. It’s a great solution for those who don’t have an Alexa-enabled device but want quick access to controls without having to fire up a smartphone and fiddle with apps. The Lutron Pico remote for audio launches September 15 and will retail for $49.