Sonos + iPhone: Impracticality Never Felt So Good

Like most luxuries, the Sonos Multi-Room Music System appeals to passion and gluttony.

The well-heeled, interconnected system offers music management from a single remote, and deftly shuttles music into different rooms of the house.  That solves some practical problems, though the typical Sonos System pushes into the thousands.  But once spoiled, it becomes difficult to downgrade into a simpler listening experience.  Welcome to the trappings of higher-end music addiction.

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In that light, the developers at Sonos recently developed an iPhone App.  The application essentially duplicates the function of the existing Sonos remote, and translates the experience onto a different handheld.  That sounds superfluous and redundant, though the experience of controlling different music zones from an iPhone is surprisingly satisfying.  And when it comes to higher-end toys, impracticality is part of the magic.

The iPhone essentially latches into the in-home network that hosts the Sonos System, and behaves as an alternate controller.  But depending on the iPhone, wireless network, and existing Sonos System, the setup process can present some pitfalls.  Sonos is a solid solution, though the number of moving parts raises the chances of troubleshooting.

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In this case, the iPhone itself offered some problems negotiating the network, not Sonos.  After a few failed attempts and modifications to iPhone network settings, the handshake was established.

The iPhone is designed to jump between WiFi, mobile broadband, and conventional cellular connections.  But the Sonos iPhone app is designed for use within the specific, in-home WiFi network.  Those wanting to control their music from a cellular band will be disappointed, and once out of the range of the host wireless system, the action ends.

In terms of execution, the application is mostly flawless.  The presentation is also quite elegant, and sure to impress guests.  Incidentally, the iPhone plays nice within the network, and any modifications to playlists and zones are captured across other controllers and computers.

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The iPhone app comes alongside a broader upgrade by Sonos, one that features a number of content enhancements.  The system now includes over 15,000 stations, including many traditional radio stations – both analog and digital (HD).  The updated radio guide is powered by RadioTime, and allows easy navigation across location and genre.

Sonos is also taking a step towards localization.  The system upgrade progress includes a zip code request, and once finished, Sonos delivers a tailored selection of local stations.  Users also have access to stations throughout the United States and abroad, across a broad range of genres.  Additionally, recommendation-focused, dynamic stations from Last.fm and Pandora are also part of the upgrade.