Sonos ending support for decade-old speakers really isn't a big deal

Sonos One
Sonos One (Image credit: Android Central)

On January 22, Sonos found itself in a boiling pot of hot water. The company issued a press release regarding the future of software updates, stating that it was ending support for legacy hardware that had been released between 2006 and 2009. I saw something about this on Twitter when it first came out, thought "huh," and went about my day.

Turns out, I was in the minority with those feelings. Not too long after Sonos broke this news, people were up in arms about how awful of a decision this was and how Sonos was turning its back on loyal customers. I honestly wasn't expecting so much backlash considering these products are anywhere from 14 to 11-years-old, but people were so passionate about this change that Sonos's CEO had to issue a follow-up statement to calm people's nerves.

For those of you that missed out on the fun, here's essentially what happened.

Sonos has been creating speakers and other audio gear for a while. Some of those products are getting pretty old, and with the ones in question being released well over a decade ago, they are running out of memory and performance power to keep up with new features Sonos is working on.

Updates aren't forever. That's a fact for any connected device.

The solution? Sonos announced that it was ending major software updates for this legacy hardware as not to hold back its current devices. For people with the legacy products that wanted to upgrade, Sonos offered a 30% discount. If you ask me, that's a fair deal.

To everyone else's credit, I can understand the frustration. No one likes hearing that their devices will no longer receive updates, especially when Sonos hardware isn't cheap. That's a bummer for sure, but what was Sonos supposed to do? Sonos could have tried to keep pushing updates to these old devices, but at this risk of compromising the user experience with bad performance and other unforeseen bugs. If that had happened, you can guarantee people would complain about that when it became an issue.

Furthermore, Sonos isn't completely turning its back on its legacy hardware. Major updates are ending for it, but Sonos will continue to push out security patches and other minor updates that allow the speakers to keep on working as they are today. That part of the policy wasn't explained adequately the first time around, but it was quickly cleared up just a day later.

At the end of all that, here's what we end up with. Aging Sonos gadgets aren't getting new features, but they'll keep on working like normal and receive patches to fix any bugs or other issues that pop up. If you want to hold onto your old hardware, Sonos is working on a way to split your system up so that you can use a mix of old and new speakers while still getting updates on the ones that are eligible for them. Want to finally upgrade to something new? Sonos is slashing the price by 30%.

Sonos kept these speakers updated for over a decade. We're lucky if an Android phone gets updates for two years.

So, tell me, what are we so worked up about?

Could Sonos have better-worded this change with its first press release? Definitely. It wasn't initially clear that old devices would still get critical security updates, nor did we know Sonos was working on the split system feature. However, Sonos did the right thing and promptly cleared all of those concerns up.

Let's look at this from Sonos's perspective. It's not making any money off of its old speakers, and frankly, the fact that updates have continued for this many years on products released between 2006 and 2009 is darn impressive. We're lucky to get two years of software updates on most Android phones, and people don't lose their minds when their Galaxy S8 from 2017 doesn't get an update to Android 10. Why does Sonos get crucified while Samsung, LG, Motorola, and countless others get a pass year after year?

Sonos logo

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

It's natural for any connected device to stop getting updates at one point or another, and I think Sonos deserves commendation for keeping these legacy products alive for as long as it has. To think that updates would continue forever is just silly.

As with all outrage these days, this thing with Sonos is bound to evaporate in the coming days (if it hasn't already). It's bad press for a few days, but people will pack their things up and move on to yell about something else. I don't think that outrage was justified in the first place, and at the very least, Sonos likely learned how to better handle this when it has to make a similar decision ten years down the road from now.

When that happens, let's try to keep our cool.

Check out our round up of the best Sonos deals now!

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

  • Is it not a big deal because you don't own any affected devices? Lol. I see both sides. These are connected devices... Basically small computers, and if Sonos keep them in the main range it would hold the newer products back. The other side of the coin is that, as one of your colleagues pointed out, these are marketed as high end speakers. And do you know what a really good set of speakers from 1980 is 40 years later? Still a really good set of speakers. 11 years is a long time for a computer, but it's nothing for a good speaker.
  • If you bought any connected device or modern electronics thinking it would be supported past even 5 years I'd call you crazy.
  • yup, Exactly... lol
  • They may have released these products a decade ago, but they were selling them only 7 years ago. I spent over seven hundred pounds on three Sonos speakers only seven years ago which soon will not work correctly if at all. I challenge anyone not to be aggrieved by that.
  • Clearly you aren't comprehending the announcement. Your legacy devices will continue to work as they do today but may not continue to get the same updates as the new more powerful speakers. Pretty simple stuff here
  • Mate, you're the one not comprehending the announcement. I have a house full of Sonos kit that I bought not that long ago, for a shed load of money, to get the same music playing in every room at the same time. Now, some of that kit (Connect amp and 2 bridges) will shortly need to become a separate system. So, now I won't be able to group all the speakers together, because the lounge uses the Connect into a high end amp and speakers, and 2 rooms in the house have to connect via a bridge because of distance. In future I can't group the kitchen to the rest of the house, or the bedrooms to the rest of the house and the lounge is in a little world of its own. So, yeah, I'm pissed off. Your argument that any "connected" device should be expected to brick after 5 years is ridiculous. I'm using a 12 year old MacBook no problems. A handheld gps from the 1980's will still tell you where you are, and how many NAS drives are still doing their job 15 years after they were bought?
    Pretty simple stuff as you say...
  • The author simply doesn't understand the situation. He makes multiple mistakes in this column:
    1. He wrote: "No one likes hearing that their devices will no longer receive updates, especially when Sonos hardware isn't cheap. That's a bummer for sure, but what was Sonos supposed to do?" ANSWER 1: They should have made their products upgradeable or modular. No one would complain if they had to buy a $39 USB stick that adds memory to a $500 CONNECT: AMP (which aren't speakers, BTW) to keep it working. ANSWER #2 - Create a master-slave relationship, so a cheap Bridge component can be purchased as an intermediary device to control the legacy products (Yamaha's MusicCast devices work in this way) 2. "Major updates are ending for it, but Sonos will continue to push out security patches and other minor updates that allow the speakers to keep on working as they are today. That part of the policy wasn't explained adequately the first time around, but it was quickly cleared up just a day later." RESPONSE: This is false. SONOS states very clearly that if a new API is released after May by a streaming company your legacy products will fail. 3. "We're lucky to get two years of software updates on most Android phones, and people don't lose their minds when their Galaxy S8 from 2017 doesn't get an update to Android 10. Why does Sonos get crucified while Samsung, LG, Motorola, and countless others get a pass year after year?" ANSWER: Because they don't fail, as I stated above. I can use a 10 year old phone to send text messages, receive calls, and update my contact list. Everything still works, it just doesn't get updates. SONOS products will FAIL. 4. "Want to finally upgrade to something new? Sonos is slashing the price by 30%." RESPONSE: If these were computers and the prices of SONOS equipment were dropping the way computer prices have over the last decade, most wouldn't complain. But when a new SONOS AMP goes for $650, then replacing your CONNECT: AMP that cost $500 (sold discounted for $450) for another $455, you can see why people are mad. Just so the author knows 30% discount is the price SONOS equipment is sold to dealers, so SONOS is making just as much money on this deal as if they were selling it to a retail outlet. Lastly, the author fails to understand SONOS were sold as Hi-Fi equipment. So why can't the speakers be used as speakers, why are they bricked? Why can't an AMP be used as an AMP, instead of being bricked? I bought an NAD in 1982 for $135. I connected a SONOS: CONNECT to it in 2012, for $349, to power my stand-alone speakers, purchased in 1996. The almost 40 year old amp still works, the 25 year old speakers are running good as ever, but the 8 year old CONNECT will be dead within the year. The future of whole-house streaming, for me at least, will be open source software, run off an old computer (probably running LINUX, which runs great on old computers from 2005).
  • Lol, you've got to be kidding. All that and you still compare a dumb speaker with a connected one. Wow
  • It's not a speaker. Do you even understand what you are commenting about?
  • The answers made for number 1 are actually pretty good ideas. Although I don't think they will outright FAIL without new updates, Sonos could have provided an alternate path to keep existing systems up to date.
  • Please DONT compare them to a smartphones..
    It didn't work that way...
    People nowadays replace their phones every 2-3 years, even many of us upgrade to newest model each year.. Ending support for 5-6 y.o smartphone, and barely anyone will complain..
    But is there anyone who replace their audio system every few years? especially when it cost several grand?
    Nope... People might keep their audio system for DECADES, because it-just-work.. Unlike smartphone, audio hardware didn't get "out-dated"..
    And I'm sure, it won't hurt them to keep support a few models.. It's not like they need to push update every week or so.. Giving update once a year or when needed is all they need.
  • If you seriously bought any connected device, don't care what it is, and expected it to be supported longer than 5 years I have some swamp land to sell you.
  • Surely the reason people are pissed off is stated in the article you link about the initial press release "Perhaps more importantly, if you have newer devices connected to a system with any of these older devices, they too will stop receiving updates..." So just owning a legacy device, stops the whole system from being kept secure :-/
  • A couple things.#1 Sonos is discontinuing products that were RELEASED in 2011. Some of those products were manufactured and sold by Sonos through 2015.#2 if you have a whole home system and you add a new sonos product , it will no longer have the ability to pair with the other devices in your home pthus creating two separate systems instead of a true whole home system. Kind of defeats the whole purpose of getting Sonos. I own about $3,000 worth of equipment that will no longer be supported. Many people own a lot more than that. I am currently in the market to add to my system . And I don't know what to do Idon't know what to do. I definitely need add an extra Zone, and I definitely want it to connect to the rest of my system, but if I use Sonos, next time I add on or if anything needs to be replaced, I'll have to start from scratch because I definitely want a whole home system.
  • This is the best explanation. Sonos and retailers sold legacy equipment far after the legacy manufactured date under the false pretense that the buyer could build out their sound system at anytime, as stated in their marketing campaigns and web pages.
  • I think it's a combination of issues that resulted in so much outrage. Sonos speakers still require people to use SMB1 (a protocol that even MS are saying shouldn't be used due to its inherently poor security). There's also the thorny issue of Sonos's "recycle mode" which essentially bricks a device after (IIRC) 21 days. Add it all together and I can definitely see why there was so much outrage.
  • The Connect was a current product within the last year ...... Not really decade-old
  • A millennial is comparing his cell phone to a very expensive home audio system? Yes it's true a Samsung may only get 2 to 3 years update and the phone still works, it may not get security updates but will work just fine. What we're talking about here is cutting out a software update to a Amp or Speaker? Lets think about this, the amp or speaker does not carry the software the phone, ipad or a dedicated device does. Sonos's excuse that the speaker can no longer handle the new software is insane? This was an obvious money grab to get Sonos buyers to upgrade to new equipment. Shame on you Sonos I have 8 rooms of your equipment but will go elsewhere in the future.
  • People are definitely missing the point. This article reads like a sales promotion for Sonos. As mentioned, this legacy kit was still being sold up until 2015. I believe you can't resell any old kit either as Sonos want to stop that. Is it called Recycle Mode or similar? Did Sonos declare their equipment could be EOL at some point to people bought it? Irrelevant of comparing to hifi etc, Sonos market themselves as high end and their brand promotes hifi etc. The prices that go with that reflect that. They have made a huge mistake here. I didn't buy into Sonos, but I can see why many did. Doubt many will do so again.....
  • This article is so wrong. Shame on you ! SONOS are premium devices and sold at a very high prices. This new policy (only driven by financial constraints on SONOS side and not by technical ones - the current features are working right now on all devices, and could have been working forever, as long as small corrections are applyed when needed - like minor changes related to streaming services). That means that in a few months, as soon as Spotify (or any other service) is altering a small thing (and this seems to happen quite often), all my legacy devices won't be able anymore to stream Spotify, just because SONOS has decided to not handle them anymore in any way (outside security issues, which is just a way for them to protect themselves, in the end). So in the end, when you are a customer who bought thousands of dollars of SONOS devices, this is just a palm in the face from SONOS.
  • The mindset and misunderstanding demonstrated in this article is exactly what Sonos was banking on. Banking on literally, it's nothing more than a money-grab, there's no one on this earth that can convince me my perfectly functioning speakers are no longer able to play music and that I should be OK with thousands of pounds worth of equipment being remotely switched off at any moment, less than 5 years after I bought them. If Sonos wanted to keep these speakers in service, they absolutely could. And they absolutely should. THAT is the issue.
  • What a joke. So apparently it's a no big deal and expected that a expensive speaker will STOP working at all and need to be thrown out. Or as you called it, no longer receiving updates. People should b happy they received updates for as lon as they did,. You would be lucky if your Android phone even gets two years! What a complete joke. Your Android phone doesn't stop working and become a brick if it's not supported anymore. I know what else would be great,. If when your smart TV is no longer supported. It completely stops working as a TV! It's current year and somebody on a tech site is defending the idea that it's ok for home speakers to become bricks because the company decided they don't want to support it anymore. And it's no big deal. At least the people with a actual clue were outraged and raised hell enough for the company to quickly change their position.
  • Not receiving updates is absolutely not the same as stop working.
  • It was a big deal because they said that new devices on the same network as old devices would also not receive updates. Originally, they were not going to create the split system approach--if you had old devices, they would hold back your new devices. The backlash is the reason they decided to pursue the new split-system update philosophy. So the backlash was absolutely warranted, and forced them to do the right thing. Some articles (and commenters... see above) also misunderstood their statements as suggesting that old Sonos products would stop working. Obviously that wasn't true, but some websites just like to publish things for attention, without concerning themselves too much with facts.
  • Sonos handled this poorly from the get-go. That's the point and it's the only point. If the company had a marketing / communications department that could think further than "Grammarly", this would not have happened. The fact that the CEO did not pick up on this on day one is not encouraging.
  • Mathman85, I don't think we've misunderstood at all, as far as I can see these old products will definitely stop working as a result of this announcement. Not overnight in May admittedly, but the initial announcement made it clear that without updates, functionality will be lost as connected services change. So for me, once Google Play Music changes something (with their API as I understand it) that's when my speaker will no longer play my music. What's not so clear is their second 'backtrack' statement. Many interpreted the promise of 'bug fixes and security updates' to include maintenance of the connected services and therefore an almost complete backtrack (except for the issue of no more new features and/or separated systems). But I think it was cleverly worded to placate the angry mob and intentionally ambiguous. I'm still fully expecting my connected services GPMusic, TuneIn, etc) to start failing at some point after May.