A newly awarded patent suggests that Sonos is still hard at work on its debut pair of wireless headphones, and gives us a look at their possible design and functionality, Protocol reports. The patent shows a couple of designs that look similar to other over-ear headphones from the likes of Sony and Sennheiser. It also mentions support for multiple voice assistants via wake words, as well as Sonos-specific features like integrating with an existing multi-room speaker setup.
There have been reports that Sonos is working on a pair of headphones for over a year now. In early 2019 Bloomberg was first to report on their existence, and said that the audio company was working on a pair of headphones that would cost over $300 and would include support for multiple voice assistants. Sonos speakers support both Amazon “Alexa” and “Hey Google” wake words. Bloomberg reported that the headphones could launch in 2020.
Sonos’ patent suggests that the company’s headphones might integrate seamlessly into its existing smart speaker ecosystem. Protocol points to one section of the patent that describes how the headphones would “swap” playback to another device on the local network, suggesting that the headphones may be able to handoff music to a set of home speakers. Tying into its existing ecosystem of speakers is important for Sonos, which relies on repeat purchases from existing customers to grow.
Releasing a pair of portable headphones would be a big change of pace for Sonos, which has historically focused on making wireless speakers for the home. It’s also been resistant to using Bluetooth audio, which is pretty much your only option if you want to make wireless headphones. However, late last year the company released the Sonos Move, its first portable, battery-powered speaker which also works using Bluetooth, indicating that this attitude is changing.
A spokesperson from Sonos declined to confirm the existence of the headphones in a statement given to Protocol. “As a company founded in innovation, we’re always working on different ideas and innovations that can help the world listen better,” they said, adding, “We continue to make investments in our strong patent portfolio with dozens of new patents each year. We do not have additional information to share at this time regarding our future product roadmap.”
News of its possible entry into a new product category comes at an important time for Sonos, which has struggled amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It announced in June that it would be laying off 12 percent of its workforce and close its retail stores in Manhattan along with six satellite offices. In August, investors grew concerned with supply shortages affecting product availability. Sonos is also currently engaged in a legal battle with Google over its claims that the search giant stole its smart speaker tech (Google has countersued for patent infringement), and has leveled similar accusations at Amazon.
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