Sonos just announced that they are fucking their most loyal customers and forcing them to buy the newest models by bricking their existing equipment. According to Twitter.
Here is the real story about what Sonos-gate means for the future of technology and the human race…
Sonos states on their website that "sustainability is non-negotiable," and that they design products to minimize impact, but I work at an e-waste recycler and have demonstrable proof this is false.
Sonos's "recycle mode" intentionally bricks good devices so they can't be reused. pic.twitter.com/VJDNhYOxRy
— ralph waldo cybersyn (@atomicthumbs) December 27, 2019
Of course the real story is more complicated and less satisfying. If you care, read on…
We live in a world where hardware gets better every year. Software also (usually?) gets better every year. If you bought a Sonos 15 years ago, it works better now than it did when you bought it because of free software upgrades.
Sometimes better software needs better hardware. Sonos has announced that moving forward, some of their oldest hardware will no longer be able to run their newest software. So, going forward that older Sonos hardware will not be updated to the latest shiny software. Older Sonos hardware will keep running the same version of the software that it is currently running.
If you are happy with the current software running on your older Sonos hardware (which is at least as good as it was when you bought it, probably much better), then do nothing and you will continue to be happy.
If you have gotten addicted to getting all the new and exciting features that each new free update brings, then you will need newer hardware. You can try to sell your old hardware. You can then use the proceeds to buy new hardware, but to be honest old Sonos hardware is heavy. It is possible that no one will even be willing to pay the shipping, much less any significant amount of money for your old Sonos stuff. Sorry. You can’t really be mad at the people who do not want to buy your old stuff (plus shipping) since you don’t even want it yourself!
But Sonos wants you to be happy! They really do! If you want to upgrade to the newest equipment, they want you to have it! They get a happy customer who is using the latest and greatest stuff they can create, and they also get some money from selling you the newer hardware. So they offer a trade-in program. This is effectively them buying your older hardware from you in exchange for a credit to buy the newer hardware. This is exactly what you wanted, right?!
So they buy your old hardware and give you 30% off the new hardware and everyone is happy! But old Sonos hardware is heavy and costs a lot to ship, and Sonos does not actually want your old hardware – they would just send it to recycling anyway. So instead, they just put the hardware you effectively sold to them into “recycle mode” and let you recycle it locally – saving all that needless shipping. This is green! Greta is happy now too!
Ok, so now everyone is happy. No one was screwed. So what the problem?
“But they bricked my perfectly good device so now I can not recycle it!”
Listen, you decided to enrol in the trade-up program because you wanted the newer hardware and no one wanted to buy your old hardware for more than what Sonos was offering you. If someone did want it, you could have sold it to them and then they could have kept using it – and you could have used the money to buy your shiny new stuff!
“I did enrol in the trade-up, but I thought I’d be able to get the 30% credit and then sell my old Sonos and get even more money!”
That was not the deal you signed up for…
“Ok, I did enrol in the trade-up and I did agree to those terms, but it turns out that ‘recycle mode’ makes it not work so I can not recycle it!”
You can recycle a Sonos that is in “recycle mode”. Bring it to the same place where you bring all your other old electronics that don’t work anymore and they will take it. I promise.
I think you were thinking “re-sell” not “recycle”. You thought you would effectively be able to sell your Sonos twice. Well, you can’t.
“Ok, but it still seems wrong and wasteful for them to take a thing that was working and make it not working”
I understand how you feel. We are stingy and frugal creatures – millions of years of hardscrabble existence made us so. We hate to waste anything. But the fact is: you own a music box that originally cost more than the monthly income of most humans on earth. You just need to be OK with sending your old Sonos to recycling so you can have a shiny new one. If not, then maybe sell all your stuff and don’t buy any more and give all your current and future money to a good charity so you will not have this issue come up again.
If it makes you feel better, do remember that if someone actually wanted your old Sonos and you were willing to go through the trouble to sell it to them, then it would not be on its way to recycling. Really the only choice here was should Sonos (1) make you ship it back to them so they can recycle it, or (2) just let you recycle it locally. I think they made the better choice of the two – even though it somehow has been framed as the wrong choice.
“But Sonos is holding my newer equipment hostage by threatening to not update it if I do not get rid of my old equipment!”
Sonos has feature called “grouping”. If you have a bunch of Sonos units, you can “group”them together Borg style. It is cool.
For units to be connected together this way, they all need to be running the same version of the software. As a software-maker myself, I think this is a reasonable requirement and, as best I can remember, this is not a new thing. It has always been like this.
So if you (1) have a bunch of Sonos units, and (2) some of them are new ones and some of them are older ones that will not longer be getting updates, and (3) you have new ones and old ones in the same group, then… you will not be able to update the newer units that are grouped with older units to the latest software. That’s it. Both the new ones and the old ones will keep working just like they are now.
— KD (@KDogPeele) January 21, 2020
Your old Sonos stuff and your new Sonos stuff will keep working just like it does now. If you want to take advantage of the Sonos trade-up, then you have to agree to recycle your older units in order to get your discounted new ones.
If you ever want to update your newer units to run the latest free update, then just ungroup them from the old ones. Both old and new will work, and new ones will get the latest updates.
I sure have loved my @Sonos system, but with this — along with the Recycle Mode debacle — I will not be giving any more $ to this f***ing company. It's a shame, too, because they made really great products.#BoycottSonos pic.twitter.com/9eORYyZNar
— @LastThird (@LastThird) January 21, 2020
If you liked your Sonos units when you bought them, then you should like them even better now since for 15 years there has been a steady stream of free updates that added new features. It is this constant improvement of the product that brought us to this moment where they have exceeded the capacity of the older hardware. Would it have been better if they had never improved the older products ever? Then you’d still have exactly the same functionality that you originally bought. But think how boring twitter would have been for the past week!
Over $1000 in equipment and you’re going to “brick” it in the near future. You offer me 30% off overpriced replacements? There should be a lawsuit. pic.twitter.com/DfFRGnVej7
— Scott McCabe (@jsmccabe75) January 21, 2020
Nope. Ok, that’s enough tweets. You can search for “fuck sonos” to read a few thousand more. Come back when you are done.
What Sonos Could Have Done
- Just stop updating the older units. No announcement.
- Make everyone ship their trade-in units to a “reprocessing facility”.
My guess is that they are currently wishing they did these. Others will not repeat the mistakes. That sucks for us, but I guess we deserve it.
We love David and Goliath stories. They are simple and have little good guys and big bad guys.
We love to cheer for the little good guys. The little guys are good people like us and the bad guys are big corporations and big corporations are evil.
We love to all come together against the common big bad guy. It’s us against them. Grab your
It feels good to be on the good team. We show how courageous we are standing up to the big bad guy.
It feels good to be smart and decisive. I see what is exactly what is going on here, and I will not stand for it!
And we can do all this in 140 letters (or sometimes just a single click). It only takes a second to feel good about ourselves and move on to the next righteous battle.
It takes way longer to read a long and complicated story that explains why things are usually not that simple.
So here we are. I wish there were more people like you.