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Apple Music Launching on Sonos Tomorrow – Some Beta Impressions

With a press release, Sonos announced today that Apple Music integration, first released as beta late last year, will be available publicly tomorrow, February 10:

Sonos announced today that Apple Music will be available on Sonos systems worldwide starting Wednesday, Feb. 10. Music fans worldwide will have access to Apple Music features like For You, New, Radio, and My Music, and will also be able to stream the entire Apple Music catalog through Sonos smart speakers tuned for great sound in every room of their homes.

Apple Music on Sonos was tested by hundreds of thousands of listeners through a successful beta program that started in early December. To stream Apple Music on Sonos, customers simply select "Add Music Services" from any Sonos controller app, scroll down to the Apple Music icon, and login.

"The feedback from Apple Music members on Sonos during the beta period has been great," said Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. "Sonos plus Apple Music provides an amazing listening experience at home – and we're excited to offer it to all Sonos customers starting tomorrow."

I bought a Sonos PLAY:1 a few weeks ago, and I've been testing the Apple Music integration. There's a lot to like: once configured, you'll get access to 'For You' recommendations – which are the same list of suggestions from the Music app, including albums – plus a collection of categories for new music, content added to 'My Music', and radio stations (with Beats1). The authorization process to connect Apple Music to Sonos was seamless (you're taken to a special page in the Music app where you can grant Sonos permission to access music from your account) and both streaming and search were fine during the beta.

Sonos' own player brings some unique additions to the listening experience on iOS. Most notably, Sonos' search can look into multiple connected services at once (I've enjoyed simultaneous Apple Music and SoundCloud search) and you can create Favorites – bookmarks to media items (albums, songs, etc.) that you can then quickly access from a shortcut in the sidebar. Apple Music lacks this sort of quick access to frequently played content, which is one of the best features of the Sonos app.

Alas, Sonos' utilitarian approach doesn't always work if you've grown accustomed to Apple Music's highly visual organization of albums and sub-sections. In the For You section as seen through Sonos, there's no clear differentiation between curated playlists and albums. In artist pages, albums, EPs, and singles are often thrown into a single grid with no separate groupings for top albums and top songs. There are no suggestions for related albums and artists. These are all aspects that Apple Music excels at – not to mention custom backgrounds for popular albums and artists that make pages visually stand out. I could go on: getting to Top Charts takes too many taps in the Sonos app (I had to create a shortcut to it), and the 'New' page – which is a vibrant collection of weekly releases, curator highlights, and top songs in Apple's Music app – is a bland list in Sonos. I wonder if Apple isn't giving Sonos access to popularity data and related albums, or if Sonos has such information but decided not to bake it into the app.

Even worse, though, is the fact that, a few weeks into my Sonos/Apple Music setup, I still haven't figured out whether listening to Apple Music via Sonos trains the algorithm that gives me suggestions in the For You section of Apple Music. There is no 'love' button for Apple Music tracks in the Sonos app, and I haven't been able to confirm during the beta if what I've been listening to with Sonos has informed Apple Music about my recent tastes at all. Perhaps the public launch will clarify this aspect.

Overall, Apple Music integration is good news for users who own a Sonos system. The Sonos app is okay and streaming from Apple Music works well, as does search. But if you want the full Apple Music experience, you'll still have to use the Music app on your iPhone and iPad. I understand why it has to be like this, but I still wish I could stream Apple Music to my Sonos speaker directly from Apple's app. I guess that's one more reason to install AirSonos on my Synology.

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