In October 2019, Sonos began to offer customers the ability to trade in their older devices in exchange for a discount on a new device. These older devices, Sonos said, lacked the ability to receive certain enhancements due to the age of the hardware. However, at the time, Sonos did not indicate exactly how or when the age of these products would prove problematic. Today, Sonos has released more details: Starting in May 2020, these older products will not receive any new software updates, and owners who choose to keep using them can expect features to slowly stop working.
The older products in question are:
Connect and Connect: Amp sold between 2006 and 2015
CR200 remote control
Starting today, you can identify whether any of your Sonos products are affected by this announcement by logging on to Sonos.com with your Sonos account and clicking on the System tab. Sonos’s trade-in program is still in effect, and you can use the Trade-Up tab to take advantage of it if any of your products have been identified.
The trade-in program — which has received criticism from some observers — isn’t mandatory, however. If you have one of these older products, you can continue to use it. Sonos told Digital Trends that the May 2020 code freeze for the affected products didn’t necessarily mean that they would stop working. “We cannot put a date on when something might be disrupted,” a spokesperson said, “but they should continue working for some time.”
That said, if you choose to keep using them, it’s expected that support for the wide variety of streaming music services will gradually decline, as will support for things like voice services via Alexa and Google Assistant. Unfortunately, even if you own newer Sonos products like the Sonos One or Sonos Beam, as long as they are grouped with the older gear under the same Sonos system, they will be affected too.
The reason, Sonos explains, is that all Sonos devices on the same system must run the same version of the Sonos software. So your overall Sonos system’s capabilities are defined by the least powerful product you own, not the most powerful one.
One option for those with a large collection of both new and old Sonos products would be to split the devices into two separate systems. By putting the older devices on their own system, they would no longer affect the upgradeability of the newer products.
Sonos doesn’t necessarily recommend this option, but it says it will do what it can to maintain the viability of the older gear for as long as possible. We asked if the core Sonos function of playing people’s private collection of digital music could be preserved, even if access to streaming music eventually ended.
“We will work to maintain that existing experience — including those core music streaming features — and conduct bug fixes where the computing hardware will allow,” Sonos said, “but our efforts are ultimately going to be limited by the lack of memory and processing power of these legacy products.”
In some ways, it’s remarkable that Sonos has been able to keep these older devices working as long as it has. All were launched before the first iPhone went on sale, at a time when terms like apps, streaming music, and voice assistants were still many years from becoming mainstream.
And yet, Sonos has found ways to extend the life of these early wireless music players, consistently adding new features like Trueplay, streaming music subscriptions, voice commands, integration with smart home automation systems, and Apple’s AirPlay 2.
The Sonos trade-in program, by giving participants up to $200 toward the purchase of a new Sonos device for every old product they recycle, is equally remarkable: Depending on the device you choose to recycle, that could mean a 50% value placed on an electronic product that is up to 14 years old.
As sad as it is to see these Sonos devices finally near the end of their serviceable life, Sonos deserves full credit for supporting them as long as it did. It’s a rarity in an industry known for short product lifecycles.
Sonos’ most recently launched products are the Sonos Move, a portable speaker that has a built-in battery and the ability to work as a Bluetooth device when away from Wi-Fi, and the Sonos Port, a replacement for the now almost-obsolete Sonos Connect.
Sonos CEO tries to calm customers, says products will work ‘as long as possible’
Sonos likely anticipated that some of its customers would be unhappy to hear that their older audio products would soon stop receiving software updates, but few could have predicted the massive social media outcry the announcement provoked. So in an effort to calm the outrage, Sonos CEO Patrick Spence has penned an open letter to customers, in hopes of clarifying the company's previous communication:
"We heard you. We did not get this right from the start. My apologies for that and I wanted to personally assure you of the path forward:
First, rest assured that come May, when we end new software updates for our legacy products, they will continue to work just as they do today. We are not bricking them, we are not forcing them into obsolescence, and we are not taking anything away. Many of you have invested heavily in your Sonos systems, and we intend to honor that investment for as long as possible. While legacy Sonos products won’t get new software features, we pledge to keep them updated with bug fixes and security patches for as long as possible. If we run into something core to the experience that can’t be addressed, we’ll work to offer an alternative solution and let you know about any changes you’ll see in your experience.
Secondly, we heard you on the issue of legacy products and modern products not being able to coexist in your home. We are working on a way to split your system so that modern products work together and get the latest features, while legacy products work together and remain in their current state. We’re finalizing details on this plan and will share more in the coming weeks.
While we have a lot of great products and features in the pipeline, we want our customers to upgrade to our latest and greatest products when they’re excited by what the new products offer, not because they feel forced to do so. That’s the intent of the trade-up program we launched for our loyal customers.
Thank you for being a Sonos customer. Thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback. I hope that you’ll forgive our misstep, and let us earn back your trust. Without you, Sonos wouldn't exist and we’ll work harder than ever to earn your loyalty every single day.
If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact us."
Though it's far from the reversal of the decision that many upset customers were likely hoping for, it is a reiteration of Sonos' commitment to preserving as much of its older products' functionality as possible, and for as long as possible.
Will this be enough to keep its usually highly loyal base of buyers with the company in the future? We'll have to wait and see how folks respond.
Sonos Amp and Sonos Port prices are going up by $50 in 2020
Normally around this time of year, companies are more than happy to goose their year-end sales by announcing special deals and lower prices. Sonos is taking the opposite strategy, warning customers that come January 9, 2020, it will raise prices on the Sonos Amp and Sonos Port by $50.
For most consumers, these price increases won't be too inconvenient. Both the $599 Sonos Amp ($649 in 2020) and the $399 Port ($449 in 2020), target the custom installation market, which arguably has a much higher tolerance for an 8-12% bump in the cost of products.
Sonos trade-up offer gives you a 30% discount when you recycle older products
Sonos has one of the best reputations in the audio hardware business for its long-term commitment to supporting its older products. However, that approach looks like it's about to change. For the first time, the company is actively encouraging its customers to stop using older Sonos products and recycle them responsibly. As an incentive, Sonos is offering a 30% discount on the purchase of new products.
The products that are now considered old are the Connect, Connect:Amp, ZP80, ZP90, ZP100, ZP120, and the first-generation Play:5. Some of these products, like the Connect and Connect:Amp were available for purchase on Sonos' site as recently as one year ago, and both are still for sale on Amazon.com. Why is Sonos asking customers to discontinue use of these devices? On its website FAQ it says, "these products lack certain capabilities and enhancements due to the limitations of the computer hardware."