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Hands on with the new Sonos iOS app

I've spent a few weeks using a beta of the new Sonos app which is to be released this spring. Sonos was one of the first companies to embrace the Mac when the company launched its whole-house wireless music solution back in 2002. When Apple allowed apps in iOS, Sonos was front and center with an app to control the system.

The original 'blue' app has been around ever since, but the new app, reworked from the ground up has a nice fresh design and some important feature upgrades.

The most significant new feature is universal search. For example, type in the name of an artist and you'll find relevant tracks in your music library as well as across any streaming services you subscribe to. You might get pointed to Pandora, Spotify or something else.

The app itself has been simplified, and there are now three main areas; What's currently playing, what room it is playing in, and how to navigate to the next song you want to hear.

People who are used to the current app (check the slide show for comparisons) will find the new layout takes some getting used to, but once you do, it is an easier and prettier app to use. The design has been 'flattened' in much the way iOS 7 has been graphically simplified. Buttons and controls don't have the drop shadows and highlights like they used to, and the result is a very clean look.

There are little touches that are nice. In the list of tracks playing, there is a little bouncing bar graph that identifies the current selection. Album view presents a circular graphic that indicates how much time is left on a track.

Using the beta, I was generally pleased, but I have six playback devices in my home and I was displeased to see that it could only see three rooms that were playing in sync at a time. The app showed '3+' rooms and didn't identify the others by name until I clicked on that grouping.

All in all, Sonos owners will be pleased with the changes. I couldn't find any features that have been taken away, but after a short time with the app I preferred it to the original version. That's because features that were buried in the old app are now front and center.

The Mac OS X version of the app will also be updated, but so far, no release date. I expect it to look similar and follow the feature set of the iOS app closely.

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