Song view on the new app

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Main view on old app

Song view on old app

Speaker Maker Sonos Refreshes Its Audio Controller App

The speaker maker reported $535 million in revenue last year, up 97% from the year prior.

When people talk about speaker company Sonos, they often rave about the sound and seamlessness of its connected audio system--less so its app, which was not only unwieldy to use but looked like it was stuck in the early 2000s. Now the company has ramped up its focus on software. On Tuesday the Santa Barbara, California, company (which in 2013 doubled its revenue to $535 million from the year before) refreshed its mobile app, highlighting a cleaner, brighter interface with improved navigation.

"The growth we've seen in the last 10 years is nothing where it's going to be," Chief Commercial Officer Patrick Spence told Fast Company. "Software is going to allow us to keep growing at the rate we're at. ... It's just as important to the acoustic work our engineers do to make great sounding speakers."

The Now Playing view for the new app, left, compared with the old app.

Sonos' mobile app for iOS and Android can change the music and volume of speakers in different rooms--individually, or in tandem. One of the biggest additions to this new controller app is a top-level search function that looks for artists, tracks, and albums across more than 20 streaming services integrated into the Sonos ecosystem. Like set-top box maker Roku, Sonos hasn't built any robust content discovery features, instead relying on universal search across integrated services. Previously, Sonos users could only search within one service at a time.

To spruce up the drab look of the old app, the designers "stripped away a lot of the interface to focus on things like album art," said director of user experience Mark Trammell. For example, the Now Playing view previously featured a tiny album cover with some dated graphical effects like tilting and reflecting the art. Now the album cover stretches across the screen. On the main view, the textured icons and blue gradient background have also been replaced by flat icons and a clean, white background. That said, though the user interface has been spruced up, it doesn't include album years, which are also missing from search results.

Though Sonos didn't break out its revenue figures for 2013, Spence said the company's growth was driven both by products released last year--the Playbar, a speaker bar for entertainment centers, and Play:1, a smaller wireless speaker--and the influx of streaming music services.

"We're certainly a beneficiary of [the growth of music streaming] and are working hard to make sure if you're a streaming customer and want to play music in your home, you choose Sonos," he said.

[Image courtesy of Sonos]

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