Sonos Controller morphs into iPhone

Sonos, whole-home audio provider, is one of the very few product lines that seems universally loved. Everyone I know with a system, swears by it. While at Sling, I often crossed paths with Sonos foot soldiers at various events. But I finally got a chance to sit down with CEO John MacFarlane a couple of weeks ago – to see their new Sonos iPhone Controller in action. And more fascinating than the software itself is iPhone Controller back story. Sonos has heard the touchscreen requests, but hybrid analog/touchscreen prototypes didn’t fare well in their usability testing and pure a touchscreen device was uncomfortable for some. Whereas the iPhone demographic is obviously already in tune with touchscreen conventions. The free Sonos iPhone Controller can supplement or replace the existing Sonos Controller ($400) – effectively lowering the cost of entry for many. However, Sonos still has a marketing challenge in communicating to potential customers exactly what components are needed and I can’t say they’re priced for the casual audiophile.

In addition to the new iPhone App, Sonos is also introducing additional Internet streaming services today: Last.FM (scrobbling across all sources!), audio podcasts, and over 15,000 radio stations are available via Sonos Software 2.7.

15 thoughts on “Sonos Controller morphs into iPhone”

  1. I did not realize sonos is working on this. Wow. This might actually get me off the fence about getting an iphone. If it works on an iphone, it should work on an itouch, right? At $350 for a sonos controller, wouldn’t it make more sense to buy an itouch?

  2. Yes, it works on the Touch – in fact, that’s how it was demo-ed to me. The original controller and the iPhone app functionality overlap in some ways and do their own things in others. But I’d go with the App myself – especially since you’ll get a virtual keyboard to peck at rather than scrolling through the alphabet a letter at a time.

  3. Yeah, scrolling through the alphabet is a pain. I actually use the desktop app instead if I am doing alot of searching, especially with Rhapsody.

    Sonos now only costs $449 if you have an iphone. $99 for the bridge and $349 for the unit. You need a A/V receiver too. Finally reaching the mainstream. I guess they were concerned about the Duet.

    Apple should have made a similar product years ago. Never understood why they did not. Makes a lot more sense than the AppleTV.

  4. Actually, if you don’t need the bridge you can get in for a relatively low $349. I wonder if Apple’s Remote app works with an Airport Express? That would give you some pseudo-Sonos functionality. Being a hardware minimalist, I’m hoping Sonos takes a page from the Squeezebox Boom book and produces something compact with builtin speakers. Doesn’t seem like it’s outside the realm of possibility…

  5. Kevin: You’re absolutely wrong. Apple has such a product: Apple TV + iPhone/iPod Touch + Remote application. I use this myself, and it works great. It’s cheaper than the Sonos and it also plays video.

    I think the problem with Sonos is that it is a niche product. On the low end, most people are perfectly happy connecting an iPod to their stereo (or just purchasing some iPod speakers). On the high end, most audiophiles (unfairly) criticize compressed audio, and even uncompressed 44.1 kHz CDs sound much worse than SACD or other high-end formats. So Sonos is stuck in the middle.

    I see a brighter future for Apple TV if Apple can make the video side more attractive.

  6. Dave,

    I have Greg’s set up plus additional speakers hooked up via airport express.

    Works like a charm.

    You can switch between the apple tv and airport express and computer or play music through all of them.

    I looked hard at Sonos but the airport express option is far more economical and with the iphone remote even more slick.

  7. Sounds like MC can confirm that you can combine an Airport Express + remote application. The lack of streaming radio is a disappointment with the Apple TV/Airport Express. I can’t explain it either – Apple TV supports streaming YouTube video, while iTunes supports streaming internet radio.

  8. Greg,

    You can play radio (not satellite radio) using appletv/airport express via itunes library on a netorked computer and control via Remote — just put the radio station into its own playlist. One station per playlist.

    If you are utilizing the appletv as the source for the Remote, this is not possible. Also, can’t control volume if appletv is the source for the remote. This is why U typically turn on my computer and access itunes library through network when listening to tunes controlled by Remote.

  9. MC: That’s a horrible kludge. I have an Apple TV so that I don’t have to turn on a computer to listen to music. After all, shouldn’t Apple just enable Internet radio on the Apple TV, just like other streaming media devices?

  10. I’ve been thinking about an Apple TV; more for playing around with and possibly running bitTorrent on background. I can see why Jobs thinks it is a “hobby”; per Apple practice since 1976 he waits until someone invents a market and then moves in.

  11. Rhapsody, Pandora, Sirius and other streaming services make Sonos a real pleasure to own. I find myself listening to my library less and less; and relying on streaming services ever more.

    iTunes just cannot match the Sonos.

    This iPhone app is really sick and is yet another free enhancement to Sonos. I bought this when it was only a music streamer for my cataloge and it’s morphed into something else entirely and better. Count me among the fans and believers of Sonos.

    For the record, I own 3 iPods, 3 Macs, Airport Express and use the Remote feature on my iPhone and iTouch on occasion, but those occasions will be reduced now that this app is out there.


  12. I wonder if this controller will be released for the Motorola Krave. Ever since I started working with Motorola, I’ve been impressed with the phone’s extensive list of features. You can check out all the specs at, but my favorite is the full touch screen, and by the looks of these screenshots/video, this app would be a perfect fit for it.

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