When the quest for the best user experience goes too far.

The Sonos One, one of the company’s latest products
Image via B&H Photo and Video

So called “planned obsolescence” is something we hear a lot about lately. Just a few years ago, Apple made headlines for supposedly using software to make older iPhones seem slower, with the goal of pushing users to upgrade to a newer model. While Apple never admitted to the latter, they dd acknowledge that they had held back older phones in the past, which they said was to increase their longevity, through practices like reducing the amount of charge batteries on older iPhones could hold, so that, while they may not hold as big of a charge, they could last much longer without needing a replacement. This method of putting some restrictions on hardware with the goal of “giving users a better user experience” is not a new one. Most recently, Sonos has come under fire for using this practice. The company introduced a new trade in program this week that offers users 30% new speakers when they trade in their older models. The kicker is that users have to brick their perfectly working speakers to be eligible for the offer. The company makes users put their speakers into “recycle mode”, which effectively makes the speakers unusable, before they can send them in to the company for a discount. This means that people who want to upgrade to a new speaker an utilize the offer have to ruin their perfectly functioning model that could easily be sold to someone else. Not only does this practice have a financial impact, as it stops recycling firms from being able to sell perfectly fine used hardware to people who may want them, it could have a drastic environmental impact as well if other manufacturers follow in Sono’s poor example. I’m all for scrapping old, obsolete hardware to gain materials for newer devices with better user experiences, but in this case, the hardware that is being thrown away is perfectly functioning and there is a marginal gain in user experience between the newer and the older models. It is clear that the choice to introduce this trade in program was made purely as a financial one to get older speakers off the market, and not as one with the benefits of the user experiences of consumers in mind, whereas it should always be the other way around.

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