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Sonos will release a new app and operating system for its speakers in June

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Sonos says the new platform is necessary for hi-res audio support and more advanced features

Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Sonos is today detailing the future of its multiroom 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 of 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.

Sonos will continue to support Alexa and Google Assistant with S2, but considering how contentious its relationship with Amazon and Google has become, you’ve got to figure that the company is charting out its own voice assistant future, and S2 could eventually play into that.

A preview of the Sonos S2 app. It’s not all that different from the current Sonos mobile app.
Image: Sonos

This forward-looking plan requires making a break from legacy Sonos products. The company has said that these devices will no longer receive new features as of May since they lack the necessary processing power, though they’ll still get bug fixes and security patches. “We will work with our partners to keep your music and voice services working for as long as we can,” Sonos reiterated today. The company posted this FAQ on the transition.

But you’ll only be able to use those legacy products with the old Sonos app once Sonos S2 is released. When that happens, there will be two Sonos apps on both Android and iOS: the current app will be renamed as Sonos S1 Controller. (To consumers, the newer S2 app will simply be called “Sonos.”) Legacy products will remain on S1, and modern Sonos gear will make the upgrade to S2.

If you only own recent Sonos speakers, there’s really nothing to worry about: you can just migrate to Sonos S2 and forget about the old app. But where things get a bit tricky is when you have both legacy and modern Sonos products in your system. For that scenario, Sonos is giving customers a few options to pick between:

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.

Picking number three means that your modern Sonos devices will no longer receive new features — even if they’re fully capable of supporting them — since the oldest device in your system determines what software runs across the entire thing.

The current Sonos app (left) and upcoming Sonos S2 app (right).
Image: Sonos

To me, this seems like a good compromise. In a perfect world, Sonos could keep old and new products working together harmoniously, but it’s not happening. If you’ve got something like an original Play:5 or early Sonos Connect that’s still working great, no one’s forcing you to upgrade or trade it in. You might just have to get creative about deciding the best approach for splitting your old and modern Sonos systems apart in your home.

Sonos says S2 will ship on all new products it releases after May. The company’s most recent product launches were the portable Sonos Move, Sonos One SL speaker (without built-in microphones), and the Sonos Port. All three were announced back in September.