This photo shows the Sonos Playbase for sound and music streaming. Sonos via Associated Press

Charles Knight starts his day listening to classical music that’s programmed to pipe through his Sonos speakers at 6:45 a.m.

But after Sonos updated its app last week, Knight could no longer set or change his wake-up music alarm. Timers to turn off music were also missing.

“Something as basic as an alarm is part of the feature set that users have had for 15 years,” said Knight, who has spent thousands of dollars on six Sonos speakers for his bedroom, home office and kitchen. “It was just really badly thought out from start to finish.”

Knight, who works for an education nonprofit organization in Britain, is among the Sonos die-hards who are furious at the new app that crippled their options to stream music, listen to an album all the way through, or set a morning alarm clock.

Some people who are blind also complained that the app omitted the voice-control features they need.


What’s happening to Sonos speaker owners is a cautionary tale. As more of your possessions rely on software – including your car, phone, TV, home thermostat or tractor – the manufacturer can ruin them with one shoddy update.

It’s not unusual for some fans to hate a “new and improved” product. (Look up New Coke or the backlash to Instagram redesigns.) But Sonos’s app release and how the company initially handled complaints were a blueprint for how to inspire loathing.


Not all Sonos speaker owners use the app and there are workarounds to some of the app’s hiccups. Some of them like the new app. But others just want their functional speakers back.

They’ve vented their rage at Sonos on Reddit, X, in one-star app reviews and a testy, hours-long online chat with company representatives.

Sonos now says it’s fixing problems and adding back missing features within days or weeks.


Sonos CEO Patrick Spence acknowledged the company made some mistakes and said Sonos plans to earn back people’s trust.

“There are clearly people who are having an experience that is subpar,” Spence said. “I would ask them to give us a chance to deliver the actions to address the concerns they’ve raised.”

Spence said that for years, customers’ top complaint was the Sonos app was clunky and slow to connect to their speakers.

Spence said the new app is zippier and easier for Sonos to update. (Some customers disputed that the new app is faster.)

He said some problems like Knight’s missing alarms were flaws that Sonos found only once the app was about to roll out. (Sonos updated the alarm feature this week.)

Sonos did remove but planned to add back some lesser-used features. Spence said the company should have told people upfront about the planned timeline to return any missing functions.



Some Sonos speaker owners said the company made unnecessary mistakes and compounded them with arrogance.

Why, they asked, didn’t Sonos wait to update the app until it was complete and the bugs were fixed? A Sonos executive also said it took “courage” for the company to overhaul its app, which some customers said was dismissive of their complaints.

Chris Danielson, who is blind and works for the National Federation of the Blind, said it took him several minutes of hunting with voice-over controls just to play music from the new Sonos app.

He said Sonos at minimum should have warned people to skip the app update if they use voice-over screen readers. Sonos said it initially missed some software flaws and will restore more voice-reader functions next week.

Danielson said Sonos has a reputation for making usable products for people with disabilities. “Overnight they broke that trust,” he said.


Danielson said he’s sticking with his Sonos system because he’s spent a lot on it and believes Sonos makes good products. He’s also encouraged by the company’s pledge to add more app testers who are blind.

A Sonos speaker can cost hundreds of dollars or more, and the company has said the average customer owns three. A relatively small but passionate fan base likes Sonos for its promise of elegant, easy-to-use speakers. Some of them feel let down.

Ken Schellenberg, who is retired and lives in Arlington, Va., knows it’s not a tragedy that his 10 or so Sonos speakers are suddenly not so functional. But, he said, “music is a huge part of my life” – and now his audio setup is “maddening.”

Schellenberg had programmed his speakers to play different music each day of the week as he drank coffee. It’s not working. His favorite classical music website now plays one movement of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” and stops.

Schellenberg’s app can’t play his thousands of downloaded digital albums. Instead, he’s digging old CDs out of his closet.

“It’s like going back in time,” Schellenberg said.

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