Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
Bose is fully discontinuing its Sleepbuds, the $250 earbuds that were designed to be worn during sleep to help drown out disturbances and other unwanted noise. Returns of the product will be accepted until December 31st, and customers are being promised a full refund.
Bose has posted a notice about the Sleepbuds on its website, where the company recounts their development, Indiegogo campaign, and commercial release. “We knew we were attempting to do something that had never been done before. But there was no doubt in our minds — it would be worth it. Because we wanted to help you,” wrote Bose general manager John Roselli. “And for many of you, we have. You’ve told us that Sleepbuds have allowed you to get your first good night’s rest in years, and that you can’t imagine ending the day without them.”
But then Roselli goes on to acknowledge that some buyers “have had a far different experience,” with inconsistent battery life, the Sleepbuds failing to fully charge, and even random shutdowns.
We’ve heard you. We’ve read your posts. We’ve documented your calls. We’ve torn down returned products you’ve sent us, and replaced them with new ones, sometimes more than once. We’ve also relentlessly researched the root cause with a team dedicated to nothing else.
After that research, Bose was initially hopeful it could make everything right through software and firmware updates. But it didn’t work, the problems continued on, and Bose says reports of failures have spiked even higher lately. So the company took yet another look, and now it’s blaming these Sleepbuds woes on the battery that powers them. “We learned that while the battery we chose functions safely, it doesn’t work as consistently or predictably as it should to meet our standards,” wrote Roselli.
And as a result, Bose is discontinuing one of the more unique products it has ever released — and one that will now be remembered as a failure. The company is also issuing a strong apology to people who took a gamble on something entirely new from a business known for its noise-canceling headphones:
Finally, for more than 50 years, we’ve conducted extensive research to do things that no one ever thought possible. Each time, we did it to make your life better. When we’ve challenged convention, we haven’t always succeeded. Sometimes we’ve stumbled. Sometimes, despite our diligence, things have gone wrong. And by far, our worst days are when that’s impacted you. Nothing else comes close.
We’re sorry for disappointing you, and we’re sorry for not communicating more clearly along the way. We had good intentions, but unless that makes a difference to you, it’s not enough.
And those customers have reason to be frustrated, as it took Bose a long time to reach this point amid a steady flow of complaints on the company’s Sleepbuds forums.
To be clear, this is not a recall. There is no danger in using the Sleepbuds, and people are free to hold onto theirs if they so choose. Bose is also still willing to swap defective pairs for a newer hardware revision that’s less susceptible (but not immune) to the erratic battery behavior. Bose says it has enough replacement sets on hand for them to last into early 2020. But if you want a refund, the company will accommodate. Visit this link for more info.
Some retailers like Best Buy are still selling the Sleepbuds, but they’re likely to end sales once existing stock runs out — if not sooner.
“We remain committed to developing innovative solutions to help the millions of people who struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep,” Bose said on its forums.
The Sleepbuds were engineered to be tiny and fit comfortably in an ear when pressed against a pillow during sleep. Unlike wireless earbuds, they did not stream music or other user-provided audio, but instead offered a batch of preloaded, soothing sounds to help wearers fall asleep. These sounds were played “at frequencies that neutralize common distracting noises.” Reading around, it seems like the Sleepbuds did genuinely help some people when they worked as intended. So hopefully Bose is serious about not abandoning the opportunity altogether.