So, it turns out that I can never change my Wi-Fi network’s name ever again, or my speakers will stop working. That may sound ridiculous, but let me walk you through the series of bad decisions and technological quirks that have brought me here.
The speakers in question are the Nocs NS2 Air Monitors (specifically, the first generation version of the product, a fact whose import will soon become clear). The NS2 Air Monitors date back to the heyday of Apple’s Airplay standard in 2013, back when companies not only included Airplay support in their speakers but built entire products around it (The Verge even included them in our Back to School Guide that year!).
Eventually, Nocs released a second version of the NS2 that added Bluetooth, when it turned out that folks didn’t really like Airplay. But when I decided to pick up a pair of the NS2 Air Monitors for my room in college, I figured that as a stubborn iTunes user who’d be relying on Airplay anyway, I could save a couple bucks and pick up an original pair of the speakers on the cheap. “Who needs Bluetooth,” I thought.
Flash forward a few years, and I’m not entirely sure whether or not Nocs as a company is even still in business. Their website is still around, but most of their products are out of stock, and it doesn’t seem like they’ve posted anything on social media in years, aside from an occasionally updated Instagram account.
But more important to me, the Nocs app — which you need to configure to use Wi-Fi networking and update firmware — hasn’t been updated since October 2014, meaning that the iOS app doesn’t work at all anymore, since Nocs never updated it with a 64-bit version. (There’s apparently an Android app, but reviews indicate that it seems to crash more often than not, so that probably isn’t a great solution, either.)
This would all be less of a problem if I had another way to use the speakers, but since I don’t have the Bluetooth model, I’m stuck with either Airplay or a 3.5mm cable (which isn’t super convenient to access, since they’re on a bookshelf). Plus, Airplay itself as a standard is on its way out, so even if the NS2 pair that I have work without any problems, they’ll be obsolete and incompatible with the new wave of speakers that will be out whenever Apple decides to finally release Airplay 2.
I’m not sure if there’s an actual lesson to be learned here, either. The speakers still technically work, even if my hopes of ever getting a software update or an upgrade to Airplay 2 are almost certainly out of the question. And in the great scheme of things, a broken companion app doesn’t really rank on the list of actual problems in my (or anyone’s) life.
But I suppose there’s at least a cautionary tale of how fragile our smart gadgets ecosystem can be, and how one broken link in the intricate chain that keeps everything working can shut everything down forever. And if I could do things over again, I’d probably have just gone with something that works with Bluetooth. Or maybe Sonos! Sonos probably isn’t going to stop working anytime soon, right?