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Sonos CEO Patrick Spence defends app redesign but promises updates

Published May 22nd, 2024 7:44PM EDT
Sonos's new app redesign next to an Era 300
Image: Sonos

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The new Sonos app has started quite a kerfuffle with the company’s community. We’re about a month into the new app living on people’s phones and desktops, and after the company took a note from Apple’s Phil Schiller a couple of weeks ago and said that the update took “courage,” Sonos CEO Patrick Spence is now coming out to defend the redesign.

In an interview with Chris Welch at The Verge, Spence talked through the launch of the redesign, how the company approached all of the new technology and reflected on how it’s been received by the community — especially those who have been vocal about it.

Why did the company decide to redo the app to begin with? Spence says that while the number one request he gets from customers is to make headphones (hey, they just did that!), the second most popular request always has to do with redesigning or adding features to the app. Spence said, “I’d say probably the entire time I’ve been at Sonos, but as long as I’ve been CEO, I’ve heard from customers saying, “You need the app to be easier and more modern to navigate. It needs to have faster response and lower latency,” and all of these things.”

The new Sonos app redesign.

Spence says that they’ve hit the mark with the new app and that, according to their testing and data from users, it’s faster, easier to navigate, more responsive, and “better overall experience.” However, he also says that “there’s a period of time where people need to adapt to that change, and we’re going through that period. We have the most passionate customers in the world.” Those customers are raising quite the ruckus across social media right now, complaining about bugs and missing features.

But of course, there’s a period of time where people need to adapt to that change, and we’re going through that period. We have the most passionate customers in the world. This architecture and everything we’ve done around the architecture allows us to move a little faster. We basically took a monolith and broke it into modular parts, which allows us to move faster in certain elements. Things like the alarm issue was a bug, right? So we could more quickly than we have in the past address it. And we’re going to find other bugs as we go through this. We’re heads down and making sure we get those addressed.

The new Sonos app with the Move speaker.

Spence is aware of all of that and says that a lot of those missing features are coming back and that the company should have done a better job of making that clear. The CEO says they should have made clear what features would be missing at launch and “when they’re coming. Because we already had a plan for how to go through that. But the ‘why now’ was because it’s actually much easier to navigate, more responsive, and just a better overall experience, and that is the thing for the 99 percent of customers that you’re never going to hear from as you go through it.”

But we have to remember that we have the most passionate customers in the world. Once you add a feature into a platform — this is the important thing for us to continue to remember as we go through this — once you add it, it may become one person’s most important thing, and that matters most to that person. Just making sure we have a plan and we’re communicating well on that, I think, is important. And we’ll get better as we go through this.

Settings on the new Sonos app.

Spence seems confident that, despite the backlash, the redesign is still the right path forward. If they made any error, the CEO seems to think it has more to do with the communication, saying, “What I wish we would’ve done is probably communicate the roadmap a little more clearly.”

The company seems to be trying to remedy that. In a post on Reddit, it announced that the following features would be coming soon:

  • Continued improvements to navigation for visually-impaired customers: mid-June
  • Adding to queue and playing next: early June
  • Sleep timer: mid-June
  • Local music library search and playback: mid-June
  • Update WiFi settings: mid-June
  • Snooze alarms: TBD

As Sonos works to appease its passionate users, it’s also moving its hardware lineup forward. Just this week, the company announced the Sonos Ace, its long-anticipated headphones, and a new generation of its Roam portable speaker. There’s a lot going on with Sonos this year, and some ruckus around its app redesign doesn’t seem to be stopping the company from moving forward.

Joe Wituschek Tech News Contributor

Joe Wituschek is a Tech News Contributor for BGR.

With expertise in tech that spans over 10 years, Joe covers the technology industry's breaking news, opinion pieces and reviews.