Gadget

The rebuilt Sonos app focuses on getting you to your tunes faster

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If you use Sonos speakers, chances are you’ve used their app and encountered at least a little frustration at some point. I don’t think it’s a bad app when you consider the many functions it needs to juggle: finding and playing music from dozens of services, managing multiple connected speakers, running people through setup and troubleshooting and so on. But at the very least, it’s fair to suggest that it’s a little long in the tooth. Sonos knows this, too, and is announcing a totally new app for Android and iOS that was written from the ground up. It’ll be available on May 7.

I spoke to Sonos VP of user experience and user research Neil Griffiths about the redesign, and he said that it came as a result of talking to hundreds of customers about their listening habits and the way they want to use the app. From those conversations came two principles the company followed for the new app. One was to make it easier for people to play back whatever audio content they have, whether it’s streaming music, podcasts, radio, audiobooks, devices plugged into Sonos speakers like TVs or turntables and more. The second is making the app into a hub that’s better-suited to getting to exactly what you want to hear.

The end result is a much simpler app — the old one had the usual five tabs along the bottom, three of which could be used to find music. Now, there’s a single, customizable home screen with a persistent search bar and rows of content. By default, you’ll see a “recently played” section at the top that pulls things in from any service you use; below that you’ll see a carousel of the different services you have hooked up to Sonos. There’s also an area that controls different inputs, like line-in to speakers that support it or TVs plugged into soundbars. That way, you can tap those to switch between streaming music and playing back the connected device.

Sonos 2024 app redesign

Sonos

There’s still a “now playing” bar at the bottom of the app that you can tap to get the full playback controls and volume adjustments, but if you swipe up from the bottom of the screen you’ll instead get a view of your whole Sonos system. This shows all your speakers and what’s playing where; you can adjust volume for each from here or group speakers together.

Easily the best thing about this new app is the customizable home screen, though. Not only can you change the order of things that appear there, you can also pin content directly from within different apps so you can get to it immediately. For example, Spotify, Apple Music and basically every other music service typically have a “new releases for you” section that shows recent albums based on your listening habits. If you always want to see that, you can pin it straight to your home screen and it’ll dynamically update when Spotify has new picks. And you can re-order these carousels so your most-used one is right at the top of the screen.

The old Sonos home screen had a recently played section at the top and let you pin songs, albums, playlists and stations from across your services, so it had some degree of flexibility. But being able to add full, dynamically updating sections from the apps you use feels like a major step forward. I can easily see pinning a half-dozen lists from different apps to my home screen, which will make the process of starting music from the Sonos app itself a lot more fluid. I still mostly use AirPlay or Spotify Connect to broadcast to my speakers, but I think it’ll be worth setting up my home in this new app and see if I use it more. Pulling together content from the too many streaming apps I use in one place sounds like a nice improvement over jumping in and out of apps depending on what I want to hear.

Sonos also made it easier to jump right into the service of your choice. All of the streaming apps that you’re logged in to will appear in a carousel as well, with your default / favorite option always at the beginning of the list. The same goes for search — when you open the search bar and type something in, you’ll get the results from your favorite service first.

Sonos desktop web app

Sonos

The company is also replacing its existing desktop controller app for Mac and Windows with a web app that’ll offer the same functionality and design as you get on your phone. That’s probably a good call, as the Sonos controller feels pretty out of step with the company’s current design and feature set, though I’m sure some will bristle at it being a web app. That should also start rolling out on May 7, and the existing Mac and Windows app will eventually be shut down.

For a lot of people, I wager the Sonos app will still be a “set it and forget it” kind of thing, used to get speakers set up and then tucked away in case something goes wrong. If you only have one or two speakers and do nearly all your listening through Spotify, for example, it’ll probably be preferable to just use the Spotify app itself still. But people who have a more involved speaker setup and use multiple sources for audio should find a lot to like here when the app arrives in a few weeks.

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