[App now available] Controversial Sonos S2 move adds hi-res audio but leaves old speakers behind

Update: The Sonos 2 app is now available, ahead of the launch of new products on Wednesday.

In what is likely to prove an extremely controversial move, Sonos has announced that it is developing a completely new platform, Sonos S2. This will add hi-res audio capabilities but will create a ‘fork’ which will effectively leave older speakers on a legacy platform.

The Sonos S2 operating system will run on all future speakers, as well as ‘many’ current ones, but will require a new Sonos app. Older speakers will be relegated to legacy status …

This means they will no longer get new features through firmware updates, and won’t work with the new Sonos app. They will continue to work with the existing app, and will still get security updates and bug fixes.

The Verge reports on the company’s plans.

Sonos is today detailing the future of its multi-room home audio strategy, which revolves around a new app and operating system, called Sonos S2, that will run on many current Sonos products and be the foundation for all the company’s future devices. Sonos S2 will be released in June and power “the next generation” of Sonos products and experiences — but it also represents the fork in the road where older, legacy hardware will be left behind and stop receiving new features.

Switching to a new OS will result in expanded capabilities, according to Sonos. Sonos S2 will allow for higher-resolution audio, whereas right now the company’s speakers are limited to CD-quality lossless audio. The revamped software underpinnings could let Sonos go hi-fi in the same way as Amazon’s Echo Studio. It could also finally result in Sonos adopting Dolby Atmos for home theater sound in the next Playbar, Playbase, or Beam.

Sonos S2 will also allow for usability enhancements (there will be improved room groups functionality in June) and “more connected and personal experiences,” according to the company. There aren’t many details on the latter just yet, but in past conversations with Sonos employees, they’ve hinted at a future in which your Sonos speakers might automatically start playing a certain playlist or podcast when you arrive home (or wake up in the morning) based on your listening patterns.

Newer speakers will work with the new app, shown above. It also seems likely Sonos will at some stage create its own smart assistant, to replace or supplement support for Alexa and Google Assistant.

The company has an upgrade program for owners of older devices.

Legacy products include the original Sonos Play:5, Zone Players, and Connect / Connect:Amp devices manufactured between 2011 and 2015. All other products are considered modern, will be upgraded to Sonos S2, and will continue to get software updates after May.

Sonos will give owners of legacy devices a 30 percent discount on a newer product through its “trade-up” program, which doesn’t actually require handing over your old device.

However, the most controversial aspect is that you cannot mix-and-match S1 and S2 platforms. This will pose major issues for those who have gradually expanded their Sonos ecosystem over the years, with a mix of older and newer speakers. The position outlined by Sonos is a hot mess.

[Your four options are:]

1) Remove the S1-only products from your system. With only S2 compatible products remaining, you’ll be ready to download the new Sonos app in June.

2) Trade up S1-only products to their S2 compatible equivalents. For customers who choose this option, we continue to offer a 30 percent discount as part of our Trade Up program.

3) Run your existing system on the S1 app. You’ll still get bug fixes and security patches, and we will work with our partners to keep your music and voice services working for as long as we can.

4) Separate your system into two. We’ll publish detailed instructions for how to do this nearer the time. Unfortunately, it won’t be possible to group an S1 system with an S2 system.

I can see a lot of long-term Sonos owners being very upset about this.

The company did at least remove the requirement to brick old devices in order to use the trade-in.

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