33 votes

Sonos's “recycle mode” intentionally bricks devices so they can't be reused

@atomicthumbs:
Sonos states on their website that "sustainability is non-negotiable," and that they design products to minimize impact, but I work at an e-waste recycler and have demonstrable proof this is false. Sonos's "recycle mode" intentionally bricks good devices so they can't be reused.

28 comments

  1. [4]
    Ember
    Link
    That's... bananas. The used market is often a selling point of a manufacturer's products. Apple products have great resale value; Swappa and eBay has tons of used devices being sold constantly....

    That's... bananas.

    The used market is often a selling point of a manufacturer's products. Apple products have great resale value; Swappa and eBay has tons of used devices being sold constantly. iPhones users actively enjoy this, because they can sell off their old device for a nice percentage, or choose from a huge variety of well-cared-for products.

    Meanwhile Sonos over here intentionally bricking their own devices lmao

    Are changes in the smart speaker market really affecting them so much, that they're desperately pushing people to buy new?

    10 votes
    1. [3]
      Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      Just theorizing off the top of my head, but ..... it's a speaker. Sure you can upgrade it, but what's really the point once you have a wireless speaker system you're happy with? So I'd assume...

      Just theorizing off the top of my head, but ..... it's a speaker. Sure you can upgrade it, but what's really the point once you have a wireless speaker system you're happy with? So I'd assume there's very little incentive to upgrade without a system like this.

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        Ember
        Link Parent
        True. But I would guess (no real evidence) that people who buy smart speakers are probably more likely to prefer staying up-to-date with the latest tech. I would bet that, for example, if/when...

        True. But I would guess (no real evidence) that people who buy smart speakers are probably more likely to prefer staying up-to-date with the latest tech. I would bet that, for example, if/when HomePod 2 comes out, there's going to be a ton of used original HomePods for sale as the Apple fans upgrade.

        3 votes
        1. Greg
          Link Parent
          I think you're absolutely right, but it frustrates me how many products I see that have a mature, long-lived technology tightly integrated with a piece of rapidly obsolete technology. Smart...

          I think you're absolutely right, but it frustrates me how many products I see that have a mature, long-lived technology tightly integrated with a piece of rapidly obsolete technology.

          Smart speakers are a great example because a good speaker will still be a good speaker in 30 years time. The "smart" part, on the other hand, is only good for as long as the manufacturer keeps a server up supporting that device's firmware.

          Obviously I quite see how this is in the manufacturer's interest, but it's a shame to see consumers so blithely accepting it. Modularity is a good thing, and smart home systems are the perfect place for it - buy high quality hardware, use the connections that have been standardised for decades, and have a small and easily replaceable box plugged in to make the whole lot smart.

          8 votes
  2. [23]
    stromm
    Link
    I don't have a problem with this, it's RECYCLE mode. Not resell or reuse mode. Recycling is the intent to break down the parts to their raw materials for sale to manufacturers for creation of new...

    I don't have a problem with this, it's RECYCLE mode. Not resell or reuse mode.

    Recycling is the intent to break down the parts to their raw materials for sale to manufacturers for creation of new parts. If he truly is someone who works at and e-waste (another clue...) recycler, he knows this. If the company is actually refurbishing and reselling products they received for recycle, they are violating multiple laws (in the US at least) governing being classified as a recycler.

    Heck, it's not even called refurb(ishment) mode. That's where to fix something broken so you can resell it for more use.

    7 votes
    1. [5]
      arp242
      Link Parent
      What's the point of "recycle mode" though? As I understand that thread, you get a discount on a new Sonos device if you put it in "recycle mode" and recycle it, but as is pointed out in that...

      What's the point of "recycle mode" though? As I understand that thread, you get a discount on a new Sonos device if you put it in "recycle mode" and recycle it, but as is pointed out in that thread, reusing is much more environmentally friendly than recycling. So if Sonos is interested in doing the best possible thing, then the whole "recycle mode" seems kinda weird, no?

      Especially for something like speakers – a technology which has been essentially unchanged for ages – this seems like a curious option. You can reuse them for decades!

      36 votes
      1. [4]
        stromm
        Link Parent
        Do you not understand that it means to recycle something?

        Do you not understand that it means to recycle something?

        1. [2]
          vivaria
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          I think the person you're replying to is suggesting that the recycle mode shouldn't have even been added (or named that way) if Sonos' goals were to encourage sustainable use of their products....

          I think the person you're replying to is suggesting that the recycle mode shouldn't have even been added (or named that way) if Sonos' goals were to encourage sustainable use of their products.

          Reading between the lines a bit, "What is the point of recycle mode" == "What the point of adding a recycle mode when it encourages behaviours that aren't actually environmentally friendly?"

          11 votes
          1. arp242
            Link Parent
            Yeah, exactly. Also see this other story that was (coincidently) posted today: https://tild.es/kie

            Yeah, exactly. Also see this other story that was (coincidently) posted today: https://tild.es/kie

            2 votes
        2. Greg
          Link Parent
          I see what you're saying - I understand the importance of precise language - but do you truly think that most consumers are aware of that distinction? If you accept that the majority will not...

          I see what you're saying - I understand the importance of precise language - but do you truly think that most consumers are aware of that distinction? If you accept that the majority will not understand a nuance of meaning, do you think it's sensible from an environmental perspective to include an option that relies on them understanding that nuance?

          For that matter, how confident are you in your own definition? If we're talking prescriptivist meaning here, the dictionary offers "to use again in the original form or with minimal alteration" as one valid use of the word "recycle".

          6 votes
    2. [3]
      tesseractcat
      Link Parent
      The issue is, they present "recycle mode" to the consumer as what you are supposed to do when you want to stop using your device and give it to an e-waste recycler. These devices are then...

      The issue is, they present "recycle mode" to the consumer as what you are supposed to do when you want to stop using your device and give it to an e-waste recycler. These devices are then perma-bricked and completely unusable. The e-waste recycler could have resold or repurposed the device, but instead has to go through a less efficient and more environmentally wasteful process.

      If all recycle mode did was clear user data, that would be fine, but instead they are acting in opposition to their claims, and harming the environment as a result. Even if it was made clearer to the consumer what recycle mode did, I still don't believe the consumer should be able to flick a switch and make a device unreusable simply because they don't like the idea of someone else using their device.

      This is harmful to the environment and doesn't really affect the consumer (lots of other products don't have a 'recycle mode'). The only entity that benefits here is the company: less people can reuse Sonos speakers, so they get more of a profit.

      27 votes
      1. [2]
        stromm
        Link Parent
        EXACTLY. E-waste recyclers are recylcers. They are not refurbishment (repair) companies (in most legal jurisdictions). I don't understand why many people don't understand that. It's literally...

        they present "recycle mode" to the consumer as what you are supposed to do when you want to stop using your device and give it to an e-waste recycler.

        EXACTLY.

        E-waste recyclers are recylcers. They are not refurbishment (repair) companies (in most legal jurisdictions).

        I don't understand why many people don't understand that. It's literally right there in the naming.

        What you seem to expect is not recycling. I would be good if the device has a "resell" or "refresh" mode.

        2 votes
        1. DanBC
          Link Parent
          You've mentioned law several times. Can you link to any law that prevents recyclers from refurbishing and reselling products?

          You've mentioned law several times.

          Can you link to any law that prevents recyclers from refurbishing and reselling products?

          9 votes
    3. [7]
      asoftbird
      Link Parent
      People enable recycle mode by accident, after which it can't be undone. You can brick your brand new device by accident. It's a waste of resources. Why recycle electronics if they're only a few...

      People enable recycle mode by accident, after which it can't be undone. You can brick your brand new device by accident. It's a waste of resources.

      Why recycle electronics if they're only a few years old? Re-use should always be preferred over recycling, since it doesn't require any processing with potential byproducts/energy costs.

      13 votes
      1. TheJorro
        Link Parent
        Do people activate it by accident? The process to activate it seems like it requires a fair bit of deliberate effort since you have to mark devices for recycling on your account, and then confirm...

        Do people activate it by accident? The process to activate it seems like it requires a fair bit of deliberate effort since you have to mark devices for recycling on your account, and then confirm in the Sonos app, all while getting notified explicitly about your device becoming unusable.

        4 votes
      2. [5]
        stromm
        Link Parent
        "Accident"... More ignorance. And I'm OK with that. RTFM people.

        "Accident"...

        More ignorance. And I'm OK with that. RTFM people.

        1. [4]
          vivaria
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Does design quality matter? Do you feel that it's the user's responsibility in all cases to know exactly how things work before doing something, even if the object wasn't designed with usability...

          Does design quality matter?

          Do you feel that it's the user's responsibility in all cases to know exactly how things work before doing something, even if the object wasn't designed with usability in mind?

          I don't know how much I like RTFM as a catch-all answer to nonintuitive functionality. There are ways to design things better if the care is taken.

          8 votes
          1. [3]
            stromm
            Link Parent
            Emphatically, yes. When you buy or use something, it absolutely is your responsibility to understand how to use it. If you use something from an ignorant view, it's not an accident when it breaks...

            Emphatically, yes.

            When you buy or use something, it absolutely is your responsibility to understand how to use it. If you use something from an ignorant view, it's not an accident when it breaks or does something you don't want. That's negligence.

            What about if someone operates a car and chose to never RTM to understand that you press the left pedal (for automatics) to stop? Is it the manufacturer's fault that the vehicle crashes? No. Or how about if they leave their propane tank valve open and the grill dial leaks and a fire starts? Is it the tank manf's fault? No.

            Where do YOU draw the line?

            1. vivaria
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              Well, first off, safety-critical systems are a whole different beast, with entirely different regulatory requirements and license/certification expectations and what have you. This is an...

              What about if someone operates a car and chose to never RTM to understand that you press the left pedal (for automatics) to stop? Is it the manufacturer's fault that the vehicle crashes? No. Or how about if they leave their propane tank valve open and the grill dial leaks and a fire starts? Is it the tank manf's fault? No.

              Well, first off, safety-critical systems are a whole different beast, with entirely different regulatory requirements and license/certification expectations and what have you. This is an entertainment product, so I'm not sure I understand the comparison.

              Second, even in those cases (especially in those cases!), if I were a designer, I'd want to make it as easy and straightforward for someone to naturally and instinctively do the intended thing. If there are design patterns that encourage people to use the object incorrectly, then I'd want to take the time to correct that. (That's assuming I don't have an ulterior (e.g. profit-driven) incentive as a designer to take advantage of people, but goodness I hope I don't ever work somewhere that encourages me to use dark patterns.)

              7 votes
            2. Gaywallet
              Link Parent
              Recycle mode is a button that is entirely unnecessary to recycle the equipment. It is entirely possible to recycle the equipment without ever entering recycle mode. All other speakers without a...

              Recycle mode is a button that is entirely unnecessary to recycle the equipment. It is entirely possible to recycle the equipment without ever entering recycle mode. All other speakers without a recycle mode are frequently recycled.

              If someone sold you a toaster with an unlabeled button in the middle that if pressed would instantly kill the toaster user, it would absolutely be held against them in the court of law because the consequences of such a button are so immensely high and the button serves no purpose except for a malicious one.

              I find it depressing that there are people out there who are angry at other people for living their lives with a slightly different take on what is important to them or a slightly different set of values. Why is it so important that someone reads the manual of something that you are willing to let them suffer when they accidentally do something? Do you demand the manual of every device you encounter in public - when you walk into a department store and the door automatically opens, do you ask for a manual to ensure you are using it correctly? What about when you dry your hands in the bathroom after washing? When you buy a public transportation ticket such as a bus or train? When you press the crosswalk button in order to cross the street?

              5 votes
    4. [6]
      babypuncher
      Link Parent
      What actual benefit does the mode provide? I can't imagine it magically makes the device easier to recycle.

      What actual benefit does the mode provide? I can't imagine it magically makes the device easier to recycle.

      10 votes
      1. [5]
        stromm
        Link Parent
        I think it's a fail-safe/safety mode. There's really not much for these devices. A circuit board, a battery, a speaker. When lithium batteries fail, they can damage the components they are...

        I think it's a fail-safe/safety mode.

        There's really not much for these devices. A circuit board, a battery, a speaker. When lithium batteries fail, they can damage the components they are attached to. So it's just less expensive to brick the whole thing if the battery (which is also a fire hazard) or mainboard fail. Really, only the speaker is easily replaceable once a failure occurs.

        1 vote
        1. Weldawadyathink
          Link Parent
          I don't keep up with sonos' product line, and I don't care to, but I thought that the majority of their devices were not battery powered. Costco sells a sonos soundbar and a wifi speaker, neither...

          I don't keep up with sonos' product line, and I don't care to, but I thought that the majority of their devices were not battery powered. Costco sells a sonos soundbar and a wifi speaker, neither of which have any reason to have a battery.

          Regardless, your argument breaks down if you take a look at any other device manufacturer that uses lithium batteries. Somehow, nearly all phones, Bluetooth speakers, battery banks, power tools, electric cars, etc, can fail gracefully without a recycle mode. Most of the time power output just drops and lowers battery life. All of these devices have a battery protection circuit that is designed exactly to prevent a failed battery becoming a fire hazard or damaging other components. If this were the real reason for sonos' recycle mode, it is basically sonos admitting that they can't build a battery protection circuit, which is something most chinesium manufacturers can do most of the time.

          7 votes
        2. [3]
          Grzmot
          Link Parent
          This may give you some context The company the Twitter OP works at isn't a pure recycler, they're more like a controller that gets electronics and then decides if they can be sold as used,...

          This may give you some context

          The company the Twitter OP works at isn't a pure recycler, they're more like a controller that gets electronics and then decides if they can be sold as used, refurbished or if they have to actually recycle the thing.

          Which is also the point of the OP, that they often got perfectly fine and working Sonos speakers because whoever gave the speakers to them was upgrading and traded in their old ones had to put it into recycle mode to get those 30% off.

          But they then have to recycle perfectly fine and working speakers, because they are bricked by the software. That's not the point of recycling.

          5 votes
          1. [2]
            stromm
            Link Parent
            Again, recycling has a meaning which does not include refurbishment or reuse. I get the intent of what you and OP want. But that is not the intent of what Sonos wants. Also, I'm not condoning what...

            Again, recycling has a meaning which does not include refurbishment or reuse.

            I get the intent of what you and OP want. But that is not the intent of what Sonos wants. Also, I'm not condoning what Sonos wants, or debating the why they want.

            The simple fact is what is it to recycle something.

            This kind of confusion is a great example of when a word is misused for something other than what it means.

            1. Grzmot
              Link Parent
              But recycling does not require a bricked device. The recycle mode is entirely useless and only serves to curb aftermark sales of which Sonos does not get a cut.

              But recycling does not require a bricked device. The recycle mode is entirely useless and only serves to curb aftermark sales of which Sonos does not get a cut.

              4 votes
    5. nothis
      Link Parent
      You're talking about the word definition, we're talking about the idea of there being a button for it, at all. And the fact that they're bold enough to put the phrase "sustainability is...

      You're talking about the word definition, we're talking about the idea of there being a button for it, at all. And the fact that they're bold enough to put the phrase "sustainability is non-negotiable" on their website.

      7 votes
  3. reguile
    Link
    This is good intent, but what happens when something like China refusing import of junk happens and the recycling market is now filled to the brim and cannot accept more devices? Something...

    This is good intent, but what happens when something like China refusing import of junk happens and the recycling market is now filled to the brim and cannot accept more devices? Something formerly re-usable is now bricked and going to end up in a landfill.

    I think this is a bad idea in general, and instead a "trade in" program with the company re-selling the old models for cheap would be far better.

    4 votes