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Sonos is getting rid of the controversial Recycle Mode that needlessly bricked its older devices

Sonos is getting rid of the controversial Recycle Mode that needlessly bricked its older devices


You can still get the same trade-up program discount

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An illustration of the Sonos logo
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Sonos is doing away with Recycle Mode, a controversial part of the company’s trade-up program that rendered old devices inoperable in exchange for a 30 percent discount on a newer Sonos product. The trade-up program still exists, and customers who own eligible legacy products can get the same discount, but they’re no longer required to permanently brick devices that might still work just fine.

With the change, Sonos is now giving customers full control over what happens with the older gadgets they’re “trading” up from. They can choose to keep it, give it to someone, recycle it at a local e-waste facility, or send it to Sonos and let the company handle the responsible recycling part. Sonos quietly removed Recycle Mode from its app last week and replaced it with language asking anyone seeking the discount to call customer service. Within the next few weeks, Sonos will update its website with a new flow for the trade-up program that no longer includes Recycle Mode, and you won’t have to call anybody.

This decision should bring an end to criticism that Sonos faced late last year when Devin Wilson brought attention to Recycle Mode and raised questions around the company’s sustainability practices. At the time, Sonos said it wasn’t forcing anyone to participate in the trade-up program, and customers who wanted to use legacy devices could continue doing so. But it kept Recycle Mode in place for those who did want the 30 percent deal. When triggered, Recycle Mode would start an irreversible 21-day countdown, after which the device in question would cease functioning. Sonos said it went this route to ensure that consumer data was being erased on recycled products.

Now, Sonos will instead encourage customers to perform a factory reset before bringing their old gear to an e-waste recycler.

Legacy products still won’t get new features

Today’s news doesn’t change Sonos’ plans to stop releasing new software updates for legacy devices sometime in May. The company botched its messaging around that so badly that CEO Patrick Spence posted an apology and said “all Sonos products will continue to work past May.”

“While legacy Sonos products won’t get new software features, we pledge to keep them updated with bug fixes and security patches for as long as possible,” Spence wrote in January. “If we run into something core to the experience that can’t be addressed, we’ll work to offer an alternative solution and let you know about any changes you’ll see in your experience.

But they won’t be gaining any new features, and customers who want to keep using old products will have to fork them off from their primary Sonos system — otherwise, all products will stop getting software updates when the cutoff happens. “We are working on a way to split your system so that modern products work together and get the latest features, while legacy products work together and remain in their current state.” A Sonos spokesperson reiterated that this is the plan and said the company will have more to share over the next few weeks.