Blog Article

Case Study: Sonos' New App Release

Jens Schumacher

May 24, 2024


minutes read


Last month Sonos released a new version of their mobile app—a major overhaul to improve performance and make it easier to navigate. Their customers didn’t like it, at least not all of them.

To be fair to Sonos, the new app is a major improvement. The initial loading time has been vastly improved. Access to volume controls and zones is also much better. So what did they get wrong?

The problem is that Sonos released the new app with a heap of features missing.

  • They REMOVED the sleep timer.

  • They REMOVED the alarms.

  • They REMOVED the ability to add songs to the queue.

  • … the list goes on and on.

And that led to the Sonos subreddit being flooded with complaints.

The issue at hand is that customers were automatically upgraded to the new app, even though it hadn't reached feature parity. But why did Sonos rush this update? It turns out that the long-awaited Sonos Ace headphones, set for release in June, rely on the new app.

Avoiding dependencies can be tricky. Supporting the new hardware in the deprecated app would have required a significant engineering effort. Previously, Sonos solved this problem by releasing a separate app. This approach would have certainly avoided the backlash we’ve seen but at the cost of added complexity. Users would need to be educated about the new app’s availability, persuaded to download it, and informed about why the existing app isn’t compatible with the new hardware. Let’s be honest—it’s not an easy problem to solve.

Customer communication is key

Given this context, it’s clear that the decision to release the app without some core features was carefully considered. So, what could have Sonos done better?

First, they should have communicated publicly that certain features were missing from the initial version of the app and given users the option to opt out of the update until those features were available.

Additionally, they could have published a public roadmap for users, detailing which features would be returning and an approximate timeframe for their release.

In situations like this, where there isn't a perfect technical solution, it all comes down to customer communication. As their Director of Product Management, Tucker Severson, recently wrote: “What we learned this past week is that we should have communicated more openly with you about changes that may impact you. Over the coming weeks and months, we seek to fix the issues that you have surfaced and earn back your trust.”

It seems Sonos has learned that communication is key. Hopefully, other companies will also learn that it's crucial to communicate changes to applications used by millions of users before their release, not after the fact.

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Keep your customers engaged. With release notes created straight from your Jira tickets.

Keep your customers engaged. With release notes created straight from your Jira tickets.

Keep your customers engaged. With release notes created straight from your Jira tickets.