Sonos has been the king of connected speakers for years now, but its devices are about to get a little more useful. At an event in New York City on Tuesday, the speaker company announced two key new features: full Spotify support and full integration with Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot speakers. Better than that, both features are coming to existing Sonos owners for free.
In the coming months, Spotify users will finally be able to connect and play music on their Sonos speakers directly from the standard Spotify app, and every Sonos speaker will basically become an Amazon Echo, complete with the Alexa voice assistant.
Spotify support plugs Sonos’ major hole
For years, Sonos has had the best system for stringing together and connecting multiple speakers in different rooms, and playing unique music in each. Instead of relying on Bluetooth, Sonos speakers leverage your home Wi-Fi to form a network that you can control from the Sonos app for iOS, Android, Mac, or PC.
But that app was also its weakness. Though it supports 80-plus music and audio services inside it, the Sonos app just can’t keep up with all the features and usability improvements that each music service makes inside its own app. For instance, on Tuesday morning we tried to listen to the new Release Radar playlist on Spotify using the Sonos app and it failed. You can play music from services like Apple Music, Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora, and dozens of other services, but you may often wish you could just use the apps for them, like Google allows on its more open Chromecast network.
The new ability to play Spotify directly from the app using “Spotify Connect” is a great step forward, and we hope more apps will be directly compatible in the future. Sonos says that 50 percent of its speaker owners already use Spotify.
Spotify Connect is coming to Sonos beta users (owners, you can sign up in your Sonos app settings) in October.
Alexa support adds key features
Adding Alexa is another bold move for Sonos, and removes one of the big reasons Sonos owners may have a some jealousy when they see a friend using an Amazon Echo. Beginning in 2017, all Sonos owners will be able to use the Alexa Voice Service on an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot device to talk to their Sonos speaker network. You can ask Alexa to play a song, skip a song, adjust the volume, find a genre, and do other small tasks, like finding out the weather or starting a timer for your casserole in the oven.
Connecting to Alexa also gives Sonos owners the possibility of connecting to other devices that are compatible with Amazon’s service.
Sonos owners who are a part of the beta program will be able to try out Alexa “by the end of the year.”
Promising step forward
We haven’t yet tried out the new Spotify or Alexa services with Sonos, and don’t have a complete list of which older Sonos speakers will be compatible with these new features, but it all sounds like a promising step forward. By continuing to support existing users and upgrade older Sonos speakers with new functionality, the speaker brand is showing dedication that other closed streaming competitors haven’t.
Hopefully, Sonos will continue to move in the direction of openness and connectivity. As soon as we’re able, we will test the new functionality. The services were not on display at the NYC event.