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‘This is disgusting’: Angry Sonos customers are calling for a boycott

After the speaker company said it would stop updating older products—and new ones connected to them—customers expressed their outrage on social media.

‘This is disgusting’: Angry Sonos customers are calling for a boycott
[Photos: courtesy of Sonos; Jeremy Thomas/Unsplash]
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Sonos, the company known for selling high-end wireless speakers, likes to brag that 92% of the products it’s ever sold are still in use. It has many fans who have been investing in their systems for years. Those facts help explain why the company’s decision this week to stop providing software updates for four models which it sold from 2006 to 2015 has infuriated some of its most loyal customers.

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Unhappy users have taken to Twitter and Facebook to decry Sonos’s announcement, which attempts to convince owners of older devices to brick their speakers so they can be recycled, after which they’ll receive a 30% discount to buy one of Sonos’s newer speakers through the company’s Trade Up program. The company says that the decision is because its oldest products just don’t have enough processing power to support new updates to the “Sonos experience.”

“As we took a look at these legacy products and what the experience would be like, we decided . . . it was best to approach Trade Up this way because we want to protect unsuspecting consumers from buying old products with a limited lifespan,” says Erin Pategas, Sonos’s senior director of global communications and sustainability. “From our perspective, it was necessary that these be recycled because they truly are reaching the end of their useful life.”

Customers fiercely disagree. Many are using the hashtag #sonosboycott to express their frustration over what many seem to view as a betrayal of trust.

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People are particularly angry about one paragraph in Sonos’s blog post announcement, which says that if any older devices are connected to new devices, those new speakers also will not receive software updates “because Sonos is a system.” Sonos customer and journalist Kirk McElhearn wrote on Twitter that while it’s expected that eventually old hardware will stop receiving updates, Sonos’s decision to apply the policy to new speakers “is the stuff of class action lawsuits.”

In response to questions about this policy, Sonos’s support account on Twitter wrote, “In the future, you’ll have the choice of splitting the system or using it all as a legacy system, with modern products not receiving updates”—which, as one person pointed out, defeats the entire purpose of a Sonos system.

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Pategas emphasized that customers have a choice in whether they want to keep using or recycle their older products. The so-called “legacy products,” which include the Connect and Connect Amp, first-generation Play:5, CR200, and Bridge, will still receive bug fixes. But the fact that any devices connected to these legacy products will stop receiving updates as well makes the move seem more like a push to convince customers to upgrade.

About the author

Katharine Schwab is the deputy editor of Fast Company's technology section. Email her at kschwab@fastcompany.com and follow her on Twitter @kschwabable

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