After several tweets brought to light Sonos' strange policy of purposefully and permanently disabling working speakers as a component of its recycling program (thus forcing the speakers to be destroyed, which is environmentally questionable at best), the company has finally responded. In a watery defense to The Verge, an unnamed spokesperson suggests that the company must deactivate the speakers because future versions of Sonos software might render them incompatible.
The reality is that these older products lack the processing power and memory to support modern Sonos experiences. Over time, technology will progress in ways these products are not able to accommodate. For some owners, these new features aren’t important. Accordingly, they may choose not to participate in the Trade Up program.
But for other owners, having modern Sonos devices capable of delivering these new experiences is important. So the Trade Up program is an affordable path for these owners to upgrade. For those that choose to trade-up to new products, we felt that the most responsible action was not to reintroduce them to new customers that may not have the context of them as 10+ year old products, and that also may not be able to deliver the Sonos experience they expected.
In the Verge article, Sonos also walks back its policy of the recycling mode process being irreversible (a situation well covered in Sonos forums). It now claims (as of today) that it will help out some users "on an individual basis."
It's completely understandable that updates to the Sonos line may at some point render some of these products unusable, but as a user with a Sonos Play:5 and a Sonos Connect (two devices in the list of "recycling" candidates) working perfectly alongside newer models of Sonos speakers, it's hardly an issue at present, and doesn't seem to call for full-tilt destruction of the working products. It's nice that Sonos offers a 30 percent discount to users who participate in its recycling program, but unnecessarily putting devices into an end-of-life state to avoid reselling or reuse it just plain unusual. As a company that touts its commitment to "ethical and sustainable practices" when it comes to the environment, this particular choice feels misguided at best, and greedy at worst.