Last year, Sonos announced plans to add support for Apple’s AirPlay 2 to its speakers. AirPlay 2 is a significant feature in that it will allow iPhone and iPad users to send audio from basically any app to Sonos’ great-sounding speakers. And you’ll be able to tell Siri to play tracks from Apple Music on Sonos systems; the Sonos One smart speaker doesn’t currently let you launch music from Apple’s service with voice commands, but AirPlay 2 is a roundabout way of introducing that convenience. The difference is that you’ll be doing the talking to your phone instead of the Sonos.
Sonos isn’t saying exactly when AirPlay 2 integration will be ready for release. Apple itself has yet to officially launch AirPlay 2 for iOS yet; it’s still in beta testing. So that part obviously needs to happen first. But Sonos has made enough progress to have finalized a list of which of speakers will get it. The Sonos One, second-gen Play:5, and Playbase will be updated with AirPlay 2 support. Older Sonos products — the Play:1, Play:3, and Playbar — won’t be. To help ease the pain and frustration of that cutoff, Sonos says that so long as you’ve got one speaker that can do AirPlay 2 in your Sonos setup, you can group it with older models to make that audio play everywhere. Mac Observer first reported the list of supported devices.
”Just like with laptops and mobile phones, sophisticated new features sometimes require new hardware,” Sonos said in its blog post today. “The computing platforms and software architecture in some of the older Sonos players simply don’t have the horsepower to support AirPlay 2. But by taking advantage of newer Sonos hardware, we’re able to make AirPlay 2 content available throughout the house on speakers old and new.”
You won’t always have to group them together through the app, either. If a Sonos device is playing AirPlay 2 audio, you can just push and hold the play button on an older Sonos speaker to have it automatically pick up that same source.
Personally, I’m most excited about this for YouTube, since there’s never been a great, seamless way to make Sonos play audio from the leading video platform. Now you’ll just have to tap the AirPlay icon. There will likely be a bit of latency between sound and image with AirPlay 2, so it might not be ideal in all cases. But at least it’ll be a relatively easy option. Same goes for Netflix, HBO Now, and other apps that Sonos hasn’t previously supported on its end.
Sonos also made another big promise last October: Google Assistant. The company has positioned the Sonos One as a smart speaker that will be assistant-agnostic and support multiple consumer favorites. It shipped with Alexa, AirPlay 2 will cover Siri (albeit from your iOS device and not the speaker itself), but Sonos hasn’t provided much of a status update on where the Google project is.