If you’ve ever been in the market for a sound bar or wireless speaker, it’s likely that you’ll have come across or even purchased a product by Sonos – a brand that makes app- and, in more recent models, voice-driven speakers.
But if you’re using an older app and device control it, such as an earlier-generation phone or tablet, you might find that your audio product could one day be rendered almost useless.
Update: January 2020
Since we published our original story on temperamental Sonos speakers, the audio giant has confirmed some of its products will stop receiving software updates from May 2020.
Describing the changes on the Sonos blog, the brand’s latest post says: “We’ve now come to a point where some of the oldest products have been stretched to their technical limits in terms of memory and processing power.”
The following Sonos products will no longer receive software updates or new features from May:
- Sonos Zone Players
- Sonos Connect
- Sonos Connect:Amp (launched in 2006; includes versions sold until 2015)
- Sonos Play:5 (first generation, launched 2009)
- Sonos CR200 (launched 2009)
- Sonos Bridge (launched 2007)
If you own one of these products, Sonos has two options for you. The first is simply to keep using the product while ‘recognising that your system will no longer receive software updates and new features.’
Alternatively, you can trade up to a new Sonos gadget with a 30% credit for each product you’re replacing. Getting involved through the Sonos Trade Up programme will see your legacy products put into Recycle Mode, which ‘deletes personally identifiable information and prepares these products for e-recycling’. Products can then be taken to a nearby certified e-recycling facility.
See also: Sonos support page for legacy products
What’s the deal with Sonos sound bars and speakers?
Sonos is primarily known as a manufacturer of sound bars and wireless speakers. Its wireless speaker products allow for ‘multi-room’ setups, meaning that many customers will combine several Sonos speakers together to create a wider audio system. But with Sonos’ most expensive speaker retailing at around £499, creating a multi-room system can be costly. If you’re investing in this kind of setup, you would certainly hope that you wouldn’t need to replace your system for at least a decade or more.
And, in theory, there’s no reason why Sonos’ premium wi-fi speakers shouldn’t last for many years. The problem is that this creates a clash with the shorter lifespan of smartphones, and Sonos speakers can only function if you use its app. It is one of the few brands of speakers that are wi-fi only, with no option to use Bluetooth. This means customers have nothing to fall back on if the app or wi-fi method can no longer work with their device.
Even if you don’t want any new features, manufacturers need to keep updating their software to keep their customers’ data secure. This makes it difficult for them to keep supporting all phones and tablets indefinitely. So, when buying a Sonos speaker, you may be forced to consider the additional costs of upgrading your phone or tablet regularly if you want to futureproof your audio setup.
What can I do if I’m affected?
The Sonos controller app is available for the following mobile devices:
- iOS 11 and higher
- iPadOS 13 and higher
- Android 7.0 and higher (not supported on Chromebooks)
- Fire OS 6.2 and higher
If you have a Sonos product with an app that no longer meets the minimum requirements then Sonos suggests updating the phone or tablet’s operating system. If you’re unable to update your device to a supported version, it suggests using an updated app on another device to control Sonos. This is an issue if you only own one smart device and you don’t plan to replace it any time soon however.
Another option for Apple users is to try the third-party app SonoPad as a system controller. It’s an alternative Sonos remote control available for your iPad or iPhone, but unfortunately it’s not available on Android devices.
For more information see the Sonos System Requirements page.
What are my consumer rights?
At the point of purchase, any manufacturer should make it clear that future updates could mean the device is no longer compatible with the app, especially since the app is needed for the device to work.
When the app upgrade is made available, there should be good communication and transparency. If there’s no transparency, the product isn’t as described. Sonos said it has sent four in-app messages communicating to Sonos users that they need to upgrade the iOS on their controller device, otherwise it will not support future Sonos updates.
If, for any reason, you still feel that your speakers are no longer fit for purpose, there may be actions you could take under the Consumer Rights act.
When you buy a product that’s designed to work with an app, it should be of satisfactory quality, fit for a particular purpose and as described by the seller. For more information on your rights, based on the length of time you’ve owned the product, see What are my rights when the digital element of my smart device stops working?
We contacted Sonos about the issue and the company explained that it has recently changed its system requirements for three Sonos apps available on Apple iOS, macOS, and Google Android.
Since 3 April 2019, it has ceased support for iOS 9 and the Sonos controller app is no longer available for Android devices lower than 5.0.
Apple stopped updating iOS 9 on a group of 2011-12 Apple iPhones/iPad/iPod devices, so this also meant those devices were no longer compatible with Sonos 10.2 apps and firmware. These older versions of iOS, macOS and Android no longer receive security updates, bug fixes, or other enhancements from Apple and Google.
Sonos claims to add features and fix bugs each time it updates a Sonos system, so continuing to use older versions would prevent the manufacturer from delivering new features and services to customers using Sonos products.
It acknowledges that this must be frustrating for customers affected by software updates, but it says it’s made every effort to keep the Sonos app working on older versions, and has now reached the point where it needs to focus on features and improvements for more recent versions.
See other speakers which support both Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity in our reviews.