Amazon is making its multiroom audio platform more convenient to control with your phone. A recent update to the Alexa mobile app introduced a new capability that lets users manage and move their music between Echo devices (or groups of multiple speakers) within the app itself. (Previously, you needed to use voice commands to perform some of those actions.)
Now, it’s all doable through a menu that lets you move music to any group or Alexa device with a couple of taps — no talking necessary. In our brief time trying it so far, it’s pretty intuitive, and anyone that’s controlled music via AirPlay or Spotify Connect shouldn’t have much trouble figuring this out. Amazon’s current lineup of Echo speakers includes the standard Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Dot with Clock, Echo Studio, and optional Echo Sub subwoofer. You can play audio across Echo Show and Fire TV devices through the Alexa app as well.
You can quickly move music between devices and groups with the Alexa app. Image: Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge
Amazon has also developed a new overview screen for the Alexa app that it calls the Active Media List. This can be accessed whenever audio is playing on your system and shows what’s playing where and lets you control multiple products from a single list. The interface will look extremely familiar to Sonos customers — so much so that the latter company might take notice.
The new Active Media List (left) gives an overview and fast access to everything playing across your system. It looks similar to Sonos’ System tab (right). Image: Jennifer Pattison Tuohy and Chris Welch / The Verge
Sonos is locked in a patents battle with Google; a trial between the two kicks off May 8th in San Francisco. But while Sonos has previously alleged that Amazon is also violating its intellectual property, it hasn’t fired any legal salvos yet. In fact, the two companies seem to be on good terms lately, having just expanded Alexa voice support on Sonos devices to many more countries. and you can run Sonos Voice Control and Alexa side by side on the same speaker. But there are limits to this collaboration: you can’t include Sonos and Echo speakers in the same group for multiroom audio, for example.
Sonos CEO Patrick Spence recently claimed that his company’s Big tech competitors (Amazon included) aren’t “doing anything interesting” in audio of late. Amazon has been fairly quiet in terms of new Echo speakers, yes, but this Alexa app update is a nice improvement that brings more refinement and polish to the company’s multiroom offering.
The Alexa app is a free download for both Android and iOS.