Spanish crowdsourced Wi-Fi operator Fon has a new trick up its sleeves: The company plans to launch a social music router dubbed Gramofon as early as next month. Fon hasn’t officially announced the product yet, but an FCC filing, as well as some previous statements from Fon executives, hint at this: Gramofon will be a router that offers Fon-like Wi-Fi sharing functionality, but also includes an audio out port, as well as some music-specific features.
The device, which goes by the model number FON 2415, is a black square cube with a footprint of 3.1 by 3.1 inches, and it features an LED ring on the top that’s used to display different device states. Gramofon features two Ethernet ports, one for connecting to the network and one to connect a PC.
There don’t seem to be any USB ports, which suggests that Gramofon either accesses music stored on other devices within the same network, or through cloud or subscription services. Gramofon also seems to ship without a remote control suggesting that music playback is launched from a PC or mobile device.
As a router, Gramofon supports 801.11 b/g/n. It uses a Qualcomm Atheros chipset, which makes sense, since Qualcomm was part of a $14 million investment round in Fon earlier this year. Back then, Fon hinted at the release of a new router that would “combine social WiFi with social music,” but declined to provide further details at the time.
However, this hasn’t been the first time Fon has hinted at the release of this product. Back in November, Fon CEO Martin Varsavsky even gave away the name of the prodct, when he wrote this on his Tumblr:
“Fon will launch a new product in April called the Gramofon. It’s a Fonera with a music player and other undisclosed features. It is a truly amazing new category killer product and we want to handle it like a start up inside Fon. We are looking for the start up CEO for this product. ”
It’s unclear whether Fon ever found that “product CEO.” The company’s FCC filings were signed by Borja Osorio, who is serving as Head of Products and Services at Fon U.S., according to his Linkedin profile.
Also unknown is which other undisclosed features Varsavsky is talking about. Fon has started to work with Facebook to give users a way to share their Wi-Fi access with friends without exchanging complicated login information. It’s possible that Gramofon uses similar features to share, or collectively listen to music.
Given that it is a music product that would in some ways compete with products like networked speakers from Sonos, one could also imagine that Gramofone could synchronize music playback across multiple units; a potential benefit of such functionailty could be that each additional router could work as a repeater, thereby maximizing Wi-Fi coverage across a user’s home.
Speaking of Sonos: I’ve said before that 2014 is the year during which everyone is trying to take on the connected speaker maker. Spotify has partnered with a number of home audio brands, Qualcomm is pushing its own Allplay multi-room music technology and startups like Beep and Aether are trying to find their niche with a unique twist on connected audio devices.
A router that also plays music would definitely stand out in this crowd — but pricing, features and last but not least support for music services could decide whether consumers will actually bite.