Sonos launches smart speaker deal as Apple gears up for HomePod release date

The competition is bringing out not-too-subtle digs between Apple and Sonos

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 25 January 2018 15:00 GMT
The new Sonos speaker is a little more square, but is otherwise remarkably similar
The new Sonos speaker is a little more square, but is otherwise remarkably similar (Sonos)

The fight to sell you speakers you can also talk to is getting more intense – and more cheap.

Sonos has announced it will sell its One smart speaker – which uses Amazon's Alexa – for cheaper than normal, in a deal launching just a day before the Apple HomePod. Apple's smart speaker contains many of the same features, and the two are part of an increasingly busy markets for sound systems you can talk to.

Sonos is referring to the bundle as "Sonos Two" – that is, two of its Sonos One smart speaker. That speaker includes many of the same features as the HomePod: built-in microphones for talking to a voice assistant, and the ability to listen to music from your home.

The bundle offers the two speakers for £349, through its own website and other shops. That's slightly more expensive than the £319 that Apple is selling just one HomePod for – though it claims that the technology in the speaker will allow it to provide some of the width and depth of sound usually given by two speakers.

The new offer – as well as a major newspaper ad taken out by Sonos – is a sign of increasing competition not only between Sonos and Apple but everyone else who makes smart speakers, including Alexa and Google. All of them are fighting to compete on both the smarts of their voice assistant and the quality of their sound.

When Apple launched its HomePod, it took aim not only at voice-controlled assistants but also smart speakers like those made by Sonos. It compared its new HomePod to a Sonos speaker that it said sounded similar but didn't have voice control – but just weeks later, Sonos launched an Alexa-controlled product of its own, the One.

And there are some features that are present on the Sonos that aren't on the new Apple speaker: the HomePod won't be able to support either multi-room audio or stereo speakers when it launches. Both of those features are expected to come with an update "later in the year", when the updated AirPlay 2 wireless technology is released.

Using Sonos's speakers in both stereo pairs and in multi-room setups throughout the house have long been part of the way the company markets its smart speakers.

“Sonos One sounds incredible on its own, but the ability to have a stereo pair or have music in two rooms vs. one at £349 feels like it’s an easy choice for those who truly love music,” said Joy Howard, chief marketing officer at Sonos. “We believe in freedom of choice and don’t want to lock people into a specific ecosystem – it’s why we support more than 80 streaming services globally and will take an agnostic approach to voice assistants as well.”

The remarks are apparently in keeping with a full-page ad taken out in the New York Times that claimed "Big Tech wants to lock you into one music service". That is apparently at least partly a dig at Apple's new speaker, which only works with Apple Music.

Sonos sees itself as a platform company, allowing other software and services to run on its speakers. It will support the Google Assistant for talking to, for instance, and later in the year will bring the same AirPlay 2 technology powering the HomePod to its own speakers.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in