Sonos Reveals First Portable Bluetooth Speaker, Upping Competition With Bose
Sonos has unveiled its first portable speaker, the Move. The long-rumored device includes Bluetooth connections for playing music and audio while not connected to an outlet, as well as the option of making it part of a larger sound system in a home. The new speaker costs $400 and will be out Sept. 24.
Sonos Moves But Not with Your Voice
The Sonos Move has a base station to dock in and charge, and it can be integrated into a home’s sound system. What makes it stand out from other Sonos speakers is the curved grip on top that lets someone pick it up and place it anywhere they want. The battery inside lasts for up to 10 hours of play before running out of charge according to Sonos.
The speaker alters its functionality in a few ways when it is detached from its base unit. Like most recent Sonos speakers, the device can be controlled by the Sonos app through a Wi-Fi connection. However, when the speaker is mobile, it relies only on Bluetooth, becoming a more sophisticated version of the many Bluetooth speakers out there controlled by a smartphone. The limitation also extends to voice assistant support. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant can be accessed via the speaker and its microphones only when it is plugged in. Voice commands are not an option when the speaker is detached from the base, likely because the power demands for an always-listening voice assistant would drain the battery too quickly.
The Move is a high-quality speaker in most ways. The device is the first to support Auto Trueplay, software that uses the microphones to gauge the sonic qualities of its surroundings and then adjusts playback to improve the sound. Sonos also went out of its way to make the speaker as rugged as possible. At a recent press event, Sonos demonstrated the Move’s ability to shrug off falls, hard rain, sandstorms, temperature extremes, and other environmental hazards without a hiccup. The impression given is that Sonos doesn’t want people to be reluctant to take the speaker for a day at the beach, or in Antarctica judging from the freeze test.
The Move is the centerpiece of Sonos’ new line of devices, but the company included two other additions in its announcement. The Sonos One SL is a slimmed-down version of the Sonos One. It doesn’t have microphones and voice assistant integration like the One, instead, it is controlled solely by the Sonos app. The other addition to the catalog is the Sonos Port, a device that can get any stereo or vinyl player with a line-in jack to stream music. It can also be used to network together smart devices and control them using either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
Sonos expanding its product line to include mobility marks an important moment for the company and the audio industry. The company has always shaped its image around high-quality audio, and, while Bluetooth technology has come a long way in recent years, it is simply not as capable of the quality that wires and Wi-Fi can sustain. Auto Trueplay and other elements of the Move mean the difference may be less obvious than with other devices, but Sonos sees value in selling portable speakers regardless.
Critically, Sonos has to think about ways to compete with other high-end audio companies like Bose. Bose recently announced the Portable Home Speaker, a new portable smart speaker that will likely be a direct competitor with the Sonos Move. Like Sonos, Bose built the speaker with features designed to enhance audio quality above less expensive portable speakers. This will just be the latest arena for Bose and Sonos, who already pit the Bose Home Speaker 300 and 500 against the Sonos One and Sonos Beam Soundbar.
Standing Out By Portability and Partners
The smart speaker market is increasingly about products with similar foundations trying to stand out from each other. Sonos and Bose are trying to carve out the high-quality portable audio niche, as neither is looking to develop a voice assistant. Sonos is instead exploring other markets, such as car audio, and partnering with Ikea to bring its audio to the furniture maker’s products.
There’s limited name-brand competition beyond Sonos and Bose in the portable smart speaker space. The Amazon Echo Tap portable smart speaker was discontinued in December 2018, likely due to low sales. Meanwhile, JBL’s Link 10 and Link 20 are still around but don’t seem to make many waves in the market. For those who want to have refined audio experiences while on the go, the decision will be between Sonos and Bose.