Sonos speakers may get an offline Alexa alternative – and we're excited

sonos arc
(Image credit: Future)

Sonos appears to be working on an offline voice assistant for its ranges of smart speakers – sidestepping the need for internet connectivity entirely – and it could be just what users need.

As spotted by Voicebot.AI, Sonos seems to have been sending out user surveys to assess, on a 1-10 scale, whether they're interested in a "potential new product offering" – one that offers offline voice controls.

A screenshot of an emailed survey by a Reddit user shows details of "Sonos Voice Control", which is described as a "quick, easy and private control designed for Sonos by Sonos."

The feature is described as "available on select Sonos voice capable speakers (S2 compatible)". The Sonos S2 partner app launched last year, bringing support for Hi-Res audio and a new user interface for those controlling their wireless speakers with a mobile phone, and is widely available across Sonos' smart speaker range, meaning this offline voice control sounds like it could roll out to a lot of audio hardware overnight.

It would apparently be able to "skip songs, adjust volume, and check battery level" in response to a 'Hey Sonos' command, with "no audio sent to the cloud [or] listened to by anyone" – giving basic functionality for music listening without risks of any privacy violations, as is often feared by those with Alexa speakers.

Analysis: An offline voice assistant would be game-changing

What's interesting is that Sonos Voice Control would work alongside the Amazon Alexa assistant: "Use Sonos Voice Control and Amazon Alexa on the same speaker. Just ask Sonos to play a song, then ask Alexa to check the weather." 

Given Alexa requires an internet connection, though, the Sonos assistant would still work when you're offline – ideal for a Bluetooth speaker that's designed to be taken out and about with you.

Music streaming services like Spotify allow you to download tracks and playlists for offline listening, too, and having a localised voice assistant that can navigate basic playback and volume controls for you would be a huge boon.

It is worth noting that the survey is clearly trying to gauge the level of interest in this assistant, which suggests that the feature might not roll out for sure. But given the advantages of an offline voice assistant – and the ease of use and privacy comforts that brings – we certainly hope that it does come to Sonos hardware relatively soon.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.