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Windows Phone App Review: Phonos - A Sonos Controller

WP Central Lumia 800 Sonos

The Sonos multi-room streaming music system is probably my favourite piece of musical gadgetry right now. I listen to a lot of music and it's often a pain to keep plugging in my phone or mp3 player into a system in each room. It took me plenty of deliberation, but eventually I succumbed to buying a few bits of the Sonos kit. Now I could have music playing throughout my small apartment. "Wonderful," I thought, until I realised there isn’t an official Sonos app for Windows Phone. Luckily, I found Phonos in the marketplace. How well does it stack up against the competition and of course the official offering from Sonos? Read on to find out..

Setup

Upon installing the app you’ll be taken through a painless setup procedure so that it can find your Sonos system. Just click Start and off you go; it will look for your system and you’re done. The official app would require you to hit a connect button on one of the Sonos players to pair the controller app, so in this regard it is actually a little easier.

In Use

The app itself moves along nice and quickly, getting the essential job of music selection and zone grouping (connecting Sonos players together to play the same source) done with little or no fuss. The main 'now playing' screen is where you will find all the controls needed for volume, for both individual rooms and the group. You are able to share what you're listening to via Twitter and Facebook. Sharing uses Windows Phones native 'post a message' functionality, meaning there’s no additional setup required in connecting your social networks. That kind of deep linking is exactly what I like to see.

WP Central Phonos LastFM

Selecting a music source is handled by tapping the central cover art/album tile on the main screen. I found that a little counter-intuitive at first but once you know how it becomes second nature. I think a “select music source” button would have been far more discoverable. Sonos have been busy adding music services to their platform so now includes nine options you can stream through the player. Phonos currently supports three of these services: Last.fm, Rdio and Spotify. Those three certainly cover my own needs. If you were hankering after any of the others, you will have either to wait or grab the official app on another platform. 

Phonos

Improvements that I’d like to see, such as being able to skip, pause, and stop tracks from the lock screen are likely impossible due to how Windows Phone works. But we can all dream, right?

Conclusion

Phonos fills a gap that is sadly left by the absence of an official Sonos offering. It does so extremely well. Whilst not as full featured as Sonos’s own app on other platforms, it does present the best experience you can get from any app currently in the Windows Phone marketplace by a wide margin. The UI is intuitive overall and offers quick and easy access to grouping and music selection. If cover art is available, it will display that as a background to the now playing screen. That looks very dapper and dare I say, does a better job than the Sonos offering elsewhere.

I have been to the marketplace and looked at user reviews.  There is some angst at the price of $9.99 (£7.99 in the UK). For people that have just gone out and splurged around £500 on a streaming music system, £7.99 isn’t very much to ask. Considering how niche the market is for such a player, I’d expect it to come with a higher asking price. Having tried the other apps in the marketplace, I can say with confidence that Phonos is simply the best Sonos controller available for Windows Phone. It’s clear the developer is really keen to improve the app and support his users personally. That kind of support makes recommending this app even easier. If you have a Sonos system and a Windows Phone, Phonos is the app to get.

**UPDATE**

I wasnt able to see the full range of services supported by Phonos (geo fenced via Sonos). Happy to report the full list includeds;   Pandora, Spotify, MOG, Last.fm, iheartradio and WiMP

Thanks to pinkfloyd01 who picked up on this in the comments! 

For more information about the developer, see my interview with Andy Pennell.

QR: PHONOS

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Comments

There are 10 comments. Sign in to comment

ragpra79 says:

I use it regularly for my Sonos and have to say I quite like it. However I'd like to see a better UI.

There are 2 main reasons I keep my old iPhone around. One is for the Skydock app which allows me to listen to XM Radio in my vehicle. The other is for the official Sonos app to control my multi -device Sonos system. The price tag, despite what reviewer says, for the Phonos app is ridiculous. But it's unavoidable if a Sonos user doesn't own iOS or Android device where the official Sonos app is free. Compared to the (now discontinued?)  Sonos Controller @ $400 (!!) then the $10 Phonos is definitely chump change to a WP owner. However I urge ALL Sonos/WP owners to contact Sonos thru email, forum, and twitter to request an official WP app.

robert brand says:

Thanks for reading the review and commenting!

I agree totally, the only way Sonos will respond will be by allot of people contacting them directly, its seems that their never ending forum posts asking for it are being ignored, so get emailing! I have contacted them via twitter & email, both without reply...

Rob

dloendorf says:

There is another Sonos control app in the marketplace called SonPhon. It allows control of all your zones from the apps start screen or you can touch the artwork of any zone to get further control of an individual zone. SonPhon also allows you to pin any/all zones to the WP start screen for instant access to a zone. The current release does not support any music service. The next release will support some services.

pinkfloyd01 says:

The article missed that both Pandora and MOG are also supported. Since Sonos won't listen to us and develop for our platform Phonos is hands down the best and most complete choice. Andy has been responsive and continues to enhance the app. Considering it costs $350 for the Sonos dedicated remote and $300 - $400 per speaker, I think $10 for the app is more than fair!

robert brand says:

Thanks for the heads up, you're right I missed a few. Rob

greg2k says:

Is Zune Pass supported? I don't think I've played an MP3 file in over a year since I have this

robert brand says:

Zune is not supported on Sonos - perhaps when MS get  Win8 + its new music service out the gate maybe we'll see Xbox Music supported... ?

siddharaj says:

No new in windows phone ri8 nw i just hate ri8 nw windows phone...no
new lock pattern, no new apps,, no new updats,, no new screen savers,,
no new unlock clocks,, wat can i do m just bored wid windows phone and
no gamez all gud gamez r paid i have windows ri8 nw

artzznyzz says:

What can we do to get a decent Windows Phone 8 controller for Sonos?
 
Well, some ~20,000 people care enougth to submit ideas / requests to Sonos on their web site.
 
Nearly 1,000 of these specificially endorse the request for a Windows RT &/or Windows Phone 8 Sonos controller.
 
The Phonos controller is outstanding, and costs only chump change.
 
So if this really matters to you, spend a little dough on Phonos, and do not begrudge Andy Pennell his due. 
 
All the outcomes are good to perfect:
 
 - Andy gets some expenses paid and you get an excellent WP9 controller;  : - )
 - Maybe Sonos will take Andy out and add featueres to make it a full featured Sonos supported controller  : - ]]
 - Maby Microsoft will jump in with Andy out and put some real muscel  into the application  : - }}}
 
Oh Yeah, and Keep up your messages directly to Sonos . . .
 
PS,
For background, see: 
     http://www.wpcentral.com/interview-%E2%80%93-phonos-developer-andy-pennell