Playing music in multiple rooms around the house can be an expensive endeavor, with products like Sonos costing upwards of $300 per speaker. If you’ve already got a handful of phones, tablets and laptops connected to existing speakers around the house, why not sync them together so they’re all playing the same songs at the same time?
Speakerfy, an app that officially launches on iPhone and iPad this week, and on Windows and Android next week, is a quick and dirty way to make it happen. It allows you to synchronize audio playback on multiple phones, tablets and laptops, so you can listen to the same music while wandering from room to room.
(Whole-home audio isn’t Speakerfy’s primary intended function. It’s actually billed as a “social sound” app, allowing people to listen to music together across devices. Yes, it’s an app for silent discos. No, I’m not hip enough to partake in said discos. Whole-home audio it is.)
Speakerfy streams audio over your local Wi-Fi network, or over a shared mobile hotspot, to any device that’s also running the app. Just send an invite to the devices you want to connect, then choose a song, album or playlist from your music collection. The other devices will start playing music in time with the host device.
Right now, Speakerfy isn’t perfect. Every time you play a new song, there’s a delay of a few seconds as the devices get in sync, and once playback begins, the receiving devices stutter for a moment while the audio falls in line. John Wright, Speakerfy’s president, told me that the company’s working on the issue.
The app itself is also aesthetically rough around the edges, and it’s prone to strange behavior. When I first tried the app, my iPhone and iPad failed to get in sync, and a message told me to force-close and restart the app. I had to do that again later on, when I’d left both devices idle for a while.
Finally, there’s one major limitation to Speakerfy: It can only play music that’s stored locally on the host device. That’s not a problem if you’ve got a huge iTunes library on your iPhone or iPad, but Speakerfy is useless if you rely on streaming services like Spotify, Rdio or Pandora. Speakerfy wants to add streaming music sources eventually, but copyright and technical issues are making it tricky, Wright said.
If you want something more reliable and capable, I’d recommend Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil software for Windows or Mac. Airfoil costs $25–though you can try it for free–and streams any audio source, including online services. It’s also a lot smoother than Speakerfy in my experience. On the downside, Airfoil requires a Windows PC or Mac as the audio source, so you can’t stream directly from a phone or tablet. There’s no Android version of Airfoil, either.
Speakerfy has other plans in the works. An app update is coming in a few weeks, with a new user interface and more features, including the ability to stream phone call audio to a PC. The company is also looking to partner with speaker and headphone makers to integrate streaming audio, and is also open to partnerships with phone and tablet vendors, allowing them to build song sharing into their products.
For now, the plan is to build out Speakerfy’s standalone apps with more features. If Speakerfy can work out some of the technical kinks, it’ll be a winner for music lovers.