Sonos Angers Owners Again With Update Cancellation

Speaker maker Sonos is once again receiving negative feedback from its customer base in the second time in two weeks.

It has just announced that it will no longer provide software update or new features for older speaker equipment from May 2020.

It comes after Sonos had already angered customers with its recycling scheme that saw useable devices being bricked, and turned into a piece of unusable components.

Update cancellation

That problem concerned the trade-in program for older Sonos speakers. Any customer with older Sonos speakers can trade up to a newer Sonos speaker with a 30 percent discount.

In order to do this however, users must activate a ‘Recycle Mode’ through the Sonos app, which after three weeks will brick the old Sonos device – a process that adds to the e-waste problem.

And now Sonos had added to the bad news with its announcement that its older products will no longer receive new features or updates from 20 May.

“Since launching our first products, technology has advanced at an exponential rate; from streaming services and voice assistants to wireless networking and Bluetooth capabilities,” said Sonos. “Through all of this transformation, we have continued delivering new features via software updates.”

It said that 92 percent of its products are still in use today (the firm launched back in 2002 and began shipping its speakers a few years later).

Indeed, it is worth remembering that its products were in people’s house BEFORE the arrival of the iPhone and when MySpace ruled the social networking scene.

“However, we’ve now come to a point where some of the oldest products have been stretched to their technical limits in terms of memory and processing power,” Sonos said.

“This coming May, these legacy products – our original Zone Players, Connect, and Connect:Amp (launched in 2006; includes versions sold until 2015), first-generation Play:5 (launched 2009), CR200 (launched 2009), and Bridge (launched 2007) – will no longer receive software updates or new features,” it said.

Customer anger

Customers can either continue using these legacy products, “recognising that your system will no longer receive software updates and new features.”

Or customers trade up to a new Sonos product with a 30 percent credit for each legacy product you replace (but which then brick the old speaker).

Sonos products are not cheap and many customers have spent hundreds, if not thousands of pounds building wireless speaker systems for their house. These two choices are likely to cause deep resentment.

“Rather unimpressed with this, @Sonos,” tweeted Dr Martin Kleppmann. “I am still using the loudspeakers and amp that I bought as a teenager; audio equipment is expected to be long-lasting.”

“In 2013, I refurbished my home and spent 1000s on an integrated music system based around Sonos central controllers to send music to every room,” tweeted Sergeant Harrison Burns. “Now, I get an e mail, telling me that it’s old and may as well be thrown in the bin.”

Financial squeeze

But at the heart of this decision is that Sonos is reportedly being squeezed by the popularity of smart speaker such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, both of whom sell speakers at significantly cheaper prices compared to Sonos.

Earlier this month Sonos announced it is now suing Google, after it alleged that the search engine giant had stolen its smart speaker technology.

Sonos also intends to sue Amazon for patent infringement, but lacks the resources to undertake two such lawsuits at once.

Both Google and Amazon deny they infringe Sonos technology.

There is a danger for Sonos with its current strategy, espicially for resentful customers.

This is because it remains to be seen how many of its customers (who now have to replace their Sonos system because of this change) will opt for another Sonos system – or whether they will jump ship to a cheaper alternative.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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