When Sonos said in late January that some of its earliest speaker models were going to lose full software support starting this spring, the backlash in the Sonos community was swift. Sonos customers on Twitter and Facebook fired off angry missives about the company “bricking” their older devices, compelling chief executive Patrick Spence to send an email to customers apologizing for the confusion and clarifying some of the company’s plans around aging speakers.
Then, in early March, Sonos said users could effectively trade-in or “recycle” their old Sonos speakers without actually having to send in the old hardware; they could keep it running as is.
Now, Sonos is revealing even more details about how it plans to continue to support existing speakers while it paves the way for new hardware products in the coming months. Unfortunately, Sonos’ future workaround involves two distinct operating systems—as well as two different Sonos mobile apps.
Antoine Leblond, Sonos’ vice president of software, said in an interview that the company believes this is the right approach.
“The options we have are either stop supporting [the legacy speakers], or fork off the system in some way like this, where we can keep the newer products that have more capacity and more horsepower. Then, for the ones that don’t, we can at least maintain the experience,” Leblond says.
Starting in June, Sonos will roll out a new operating system for its speakers and a new consumer-facing app. The OS will be called Sonos S2, while the new app will become the most up-to-date version of the Sonos app. A second app, called Sonos S1, will be the “old” app and the one you’ll have to use if you’re trying to control four specific legacy product lines: the original Zone Players (later called Connect and Connect: Amp), the first-generation Play:5 speaker, an old controller called the CR200, and the Sonos Bridge.
The Sonos S2 OS and new Sonos app will support higher-resolution audio formats; will include more “personalization” features, including one that might support better different family member accounts on the same system; and will give users more options when grouping speakers into “zones” around the house. Sonos declined to share more details about the new app and OS beyond that, saying more info would be available as the software was closer to launching.
Any new Sonos hardware product that launches after June will only run on the S2 OS and can only be controlled by the new version of the app. And that’s where things might get confusing. By forking its software into two versions of the Sonos OS and app, Sonos has actually created a potentially complicated labyrinth of legacy products, current or new-ish products, and not-yet-released products that may not all work together on the same software system.
A House Divided
Sonos has tried to stress that the older products are still going to be supported, but it has made the distinction that they’re not going to get new software updates and therefore won’t get most new features, with the exception of bug fixes and security patches. You can still cluster legacy speakers together for multi-room audio. It’s when you mix old and new products that things get confusing.
So if you have a new version of the Sonos One speaker (2019) but you also happen to have an original Sonos Play: 5 (2009), you have a few options, none of which are ideal. First, you can remove the Play:5 from your Sonos setup, upgrade the Sonos One speaker to the S2 OS and new Sonos app, and get all of the latest features on your speaker. Second, you could “trade in” that Play:5, get 30 percent off of a newer Sonos product, and then do whatever you want with the old speaker—discard it, hand it off to a friend, or store it in your personal speaker museum. Or third, you could keep using the Play:5, only you’ll have to decide if you want to run two disparate systems and apps—one for that speaker, one for your newer Sonos One—or keep every speaker running on the less modern Sonos S1 OS and Sonos S1 app.