Oftentimes Dumb is Better

The philosophy modern hardware manufacturers seem to predominantly follow is that any product can be improved by putting a chip in it. While it may be convenient to have speakers that can wirelessly connect to you phone and stream music from it, there is a significant downside to such a convenience, near future obsolesce:

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.

In this case the author has the fortune of being able to fallback to a standard 3.5mm headphone jack but many “smart” devices don’t include legacy support.

Dumb devices tend to have a longer shelf life than their smart brethren. This is because dumb device tend to operate on standards that have been around for decades. Speakers that attach to receivers using two copper cables have been around for decades and will likely be around for decades to come. What makes dumb speakers even better is that they’re modular. If a smart speaker becomes obsolete, you have to replace the whole speaker. If the receiver you plug your dumb speakers into becomes obsolete, you can replace the receiver while keeping your bitchin’ speakers.

There are a lot of legitimate reasons to add a chip to old products but there is also a trade off. In many cases, at least in my opinion, dumb devices enjoy enough advantages in shelf life that they remain superior to their smart brethren.