Apps & Mobile

Sonos Pulls Back On Plan To Brick Older, Still Functioning Speakers

Way back in January, home speaker company Sonos came under some much deserved fire for revealing a new product “recycle mode” which bricked the company’s older but perfectly serviceable smart speakers. The company has now nixed this plan in response to the outpouring of criticism it received.

Guest post by Karl Bode from Techdirt

Back in January, Sonos took some well earned heat for a new product “recycle mode” that effectively bricked older smart speakers the company was no longer interested in supporting. They’re now backtracking from the effort after significant backlash.

It began last October, when Sonos announced a new “Trade up” upgrade program that let you trade in older Sonos hardware for a 30% discount on new speakers. But the program included a bizarre caveat: to get the discount, users need to put their old hardware into “recycle mode,” which effectively bricks the product preventing it from being used again. According to Sonos, once you apply online you’ll get the discount immediately, but the speaker system you’re trading in goes into a 21 day countdown mode before it’s inevitably made useless:

“Recycle Mode is a state your device enters 21 days after recycling confirmation in the Sonos app. In Recycle Mode, all data is erased and the device is permanently deactivated so you can safely and securely dispose of it. Once a device is in Recycle Mode, it cannot be reactivated.”

Everybody including environmental and “right to repair” activists, professional home stereo installers, and ordinary consumers quickly complained about the decision, arguing that it effectively crippled expensive hardware that still worked. The fact that repurposing the hardware (or selling it to somebody else) never entered Sonos’ executives brains suggested the program — which is heavily hyped as being “environmentally friendly” — wasn’t particularly well thought out.

After months of complaints however it seems like Sonos has seen the error of its ways, and has seemingly removed the entire option from the company’s app:

“In recent days, however, Sonos quietly removed the recycle mode option from its app, replacing it with a prompt to call customer service. Additionally, the company now says it’s working on posting a new trade-in flow to its website, which will remove recycle mode from the process.”

Sonos still won’t be supporting these older, expensive products, but at least they’ll still work moving forward. Users can also still get the discount, but users simply have to register the serial number of their existing speaker. And while Sonos’ about face is a very good thing, it’s just another in a long line of examples of how, in the modern era, you no longer actually own the things you buy.

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