I've long been a fan of the Sonos music system, a collection of small, cigar-box-sized devices that attach to any stereo in my home and allow me to wirelessly stream digital music. I couple it with the music subscription service, Rhapsody, and get access to some 5 million songs virtually anything I want to hear, whenever I want to hear it.
As good as it is, Sonos got a little bit better today with the unveiling of a variety of upgrades and a new, free iPhone application. I've been beta testing the iPhone app, which I'll get to in a moment.
With its new, free software upgrade, Sonos added 15,000 Internet radio stations as well as the music-discovery services Pandora and Last.fm. So now, I can listen to my old favorite radio station, WFUV, in New York, even though I live in California. I think stuff like this will go a long way toward saving old-fashioned radio stations.
That said, it's easy to see why services such as Last.fm and Pandora are replacing traditional radio stations. Last.fm "scrobbles" the music you listen to, in this case on your Sonos system, and creates recommendations based on that. With Pandora, you search for a favorite artist or song, and the service builds an infinite playlist around it. These services are endlessly entertaining.
As minor as it is, the iPhone app is a huge deal for Sonos users. The biggest drawback to the Sonos system is it's bloody expensive. A bundle that'll connect two rooms costs $999; the remote control itself, which has an iPod-like screen, costs $399. The new iPhone app, which is supposed to go up on Apple's app store Tuesday, basically obviates the need for the remote. It does everything the remote does.
In some ways, the app is superior to the Sonos remote since the iPhone/iPod Touch screens are so much brighter and the response so fluid. In others, it's worse. Since the app doesn't work in landscape mode, it's too narrow to show you all the relevant information; looking at a list of recommended albums for instance, gives you the name of the albums, but there's no room for the artists who recorded them.
Still, with the iPhone app and today's software upgrades, Sonos continues to be my favorite music solution.