Amazon, Apple and Google are all vying for dominance in the smart speaker space, but Sonos may have found a strategy that beats them all. That’s because instead of pitting its hopes on just one voice assistant, it’s going to support them all; while simultaneously concentrating on the thing it does best – sound quality.
At a low-key event in New York City, Sonos finally unveiled what it has been promising for almost a year – a voice control platform for playing music. Rather than building out its own voice control system, however, the company decided to partner with the biggest AIs in the business – including Amazon and Google.
Meet The Sonos One
The Sonos One doesn’t look particularly special at first glance, but make no mistake this is the smart speaker that droves of music fans are going to be automatically drawn to. Why? Well, it’s essentially a Sonos Play:1 with the added smarts that you’d typically find in an Amazon Echo or Google Home.
Despite Amazon’s new Echo announced last week, and Google’s rumoured additions to its smart speaker line-up, the Play:1 is still one of the best sounding small speakers that money can buy. Sure, Apple’s HomePod will probably best the new Sonos One in terms of sound quality, after all that speaker even gives the Play:3 a run for its money, but it’s also significantly more expensive.
The new Sonos One costs $199, so is $100 more expensive than the new Amazon Echo. For consumers to justify that price gap, Sonos needs to deliver a solid speaker with all the services and features that users demand. Unfortunately, on October 24, when the Sonos One will officially go on sale, Spotify won’t support the new voice control features. That will be a big turn-off for many, although it is said to be coming soon.
A Speaker For All Rooms
While the $199 Sonos One may seem expensive in comparison to some competitors, the technology on offer in this new speaker makes it a good value option. Sonos still offers the best multi-room audio support on the market, with the new speaker allowing users to beam music to other rooms using nothing but their voice, and it also supports more than one AI.
Amazon and Google are both fighting for dominance with third-party manufacturers, but neither have won in the battle for Sonos. In fact, Sonos has decided to remain agnostic – meaning people will be able to communicate with Alexa or the Google Assistant on the Sonos One.
Alexa support will be available at launch, but expect the Google Assistant to hop along for the ride in 2018. Sonos says that the new AI will be made available through a software update, and it’s not impossible to envision other voice assistants eventually being made available. That could include everything from Siri and Cortana to outliers such as Josh.ai.
Is There Any Need?
Given Sonos speakers can already be controlled using an Amazon Echo Dot or other Echo device, is there any need for the Sonos One? Well, yes. Users wishing to purchase a Play:1 and an Echo Dot will have to currently stump up nearly $250, whereas the Sonos One is just $199.
The Sonos One can also be used to control other Sonos speakers, so that means the Playbase, Playbar, Play:5, Play:3, and even the Play:1 can be controlled from a Sonos One. The various speakers can also be linked up to create a 5.1 surround system – something not offered by the likes of the Amazon Echo or Google Home.
It’s likely that Sonos will eventually offer more smart speakers, as will its competitors, but for those who think this is enough, pre-orders are available from today. It ships on October 24 and will cost £199 in the UK and $199 in the US.