In 2021, rumors began to emerge that Sonos had started working on its own voice assistant technology in a bid to supplement (or even rival) the existing integration the company’s smart speakers have with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Now, a new report from The Verge, that cites unnamed people familiar with the company’s plans, suggests that Sonos is very close to launching such a service and we could see it as soon as June 1, 2022 in the U.S., with other countries to follow.
Digital Trends reached out to Sonos representatives for comment on the reported launch of Sonos Voice but we were told only that, “We don’t comment on rumor or speculation.”
This new report comes on the heels of a Sonos leak for a new speaker that will reportedly be called the Sonos Ray — a soundbar-style speaker that will be smaller and less expensive than the Sonos Beam. It’s been suggested that the Ray could be used in pairs as surround sound speakers with either a Beam for 5.1 sound, or a Beam Gen 2 or a Sonos Arc for 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos sound.
Why would Sonos want its own voice system? Well, it’s no secret that Sonos and Google have not had the smoothest of relationships. It took Sonos far longer than it expected to integrate Google’s Assistant as an option on Sonos’ line of voice-enabled speakers like the Sonos One, Sonos Beam, and Sonos Move. And then in 2020, Sonos launched a lawsuit against Google alleging that the search giant had violated some of Sonos’ patents related to multiroom audio. That lawsuit was recently settled in Sonos’ favor, but it looks as though Sonos is seriously considering whether it wants to remain at the mercy of companies like Google and Amazon for its speakers’ voice-command capabilities.
In 2021, Sonos began gauging its customers’ interest when it comes to a potential new feature for the Sonos ecosystem. A survey posted to Reddit and noted by The Verge, purportedly from Sonos, asked users about their interest in Sonos Voice Control. According to the survey, Sonos Voice Control would be a partial substitute for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant in that it would let you use voice commands for a slew of playback functions and for accessing your favorite content, be it artists, albums, tracks, or playlists.
At the time, the company wouldn’t confirm or deny that it had published that survey, but a spokesperson responded by email, saying, “We regularly put product and experience concepts in front of our customers to better understand what is important to them. We don’t have anything further to share at this time.”
Though Sonos’ voice function wouldn’t offer any smart home integration or features like setting reminders, as you can do with Google and Amazon’s technology, it would inherently be more private. The survey suggests that Sonos Voice Control would work entirely on-device, meaning that none of your voice commands would ever be transmitted to the cloud or recorded by Sonos or a third party. In light of recent reports that Amazon is leveraging Alexa voice data for advertising purposes, Sonos’ commitment to privacy could take on additional interest for users.
Curiously, in its survey description of Sonos Voice Control, the company says that the feature can work alongside Alexa on the same speakers, but Google Assistant was notably absent from that statement. Could Sonos be considering blocking Google from its platform based on its courtroom battle with the search giant?
Some are keen on the idea of a Sonos voice assistant, especially if it offers greater privacy and better compatibility with Sonos functions. Right now, both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are great when you use them to control playback from streaming services, but they don’t give you access to your saved Sonos favorites. For instance, Alexa can’t currently set Sonos alarms and sleep timers or play songs, albums, or playlists from your Sonos music library. If a custom-built Sonos assistant could make up for these shortcomings, it would be a welcome addition indeed.
Earlier in 2022, Sonos launched the Roam SL, a version of its popular Sonos Roam that does not have mics for voice assistant functionality. In the services world, it added a subscription HD-quality tier to its Sonos Radio streaming service, and updated the S2 version of its app and speakers to work with lossless music at 24-bit/48kHz.
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