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 feature that allows users to manage and move their music between Echo devices (or multi-speaker groups) within the app itself. (Previously, you had to use voice commands to perform some of these actions.)
Now everything can be done through a menu that allows you to move music to any group or Alexa device with a couple of taps – without speaking. In the short time we’ve tried it so far, it’s pretty intuitive, and anyone who controls music via AirPlay or Spotify Connect shouldn’t have too 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 Subwoofer. You can play audio across Echo Show and Fire TV devices through the Alexa app as well.
Amazon has also developed a new overview screen for the Alexa app that it calls Active Media List. This can be accessed when audio is playing on your system and shows what is playing where and allows you to control multiple products from a single list. The interface will look like extremely known to Sonos customers – so much so that the latter company might notice.
Sonos is locked in a patent battle with Google; a trial between the two begins on May 8 in San Francisco. But while Sonos has previously alleged that Amazon is also infringing on its intellectual property, it hasn’t fired any legal salvos yet. In fact, the two companies seem to have been on good terms lately, having 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: for example, you can’t include Sonos and Echo speakers in the same group for multi-room audio.
Sonos CEO Patrick Spence recently claimed that the company’s Big Tech competitors (including Amazon) aren’t “doing anything interesting” in audio lately. Amazon has been pretty quiet about new Echo speakers, yes, but this Alexa app update is a nice improvement that adds more sophistication and polish to the company’s multiroom offering.
The Alexa app is a free download for both Android and iOS.