I think a bit of a related issue is expectations. 25 years ago people would expect to have to purchase a new item to get new functionality. This whether a car or sprinkler controller. That is no longer the case. Today people expect software updates to fix bugs and provide new features and capabilities. This is a bit of the appeal of Rachio but Rachio are only doing it half wit.
Purchasing a new item, a new bit of hardware, is only when new and improved hardware itself is required or old hardware is beyond its reasonable service life and no longer functioning properly. Introducing an improved bit of hardware a year or so after the previous is fine but unnecessarily penalizing people who just recently purchased is not.
More than a few companies have discovered people’s dislike for monthly charges. OTOH, people are not unwilling to pay a reasonable amount for new features. They just don’t want to do that immediately after they’ve purchased though something so 1 year of free upgrades after purchase is a good way to maintain good customer relations. And, people are usually much more willing to part with $30 for that years new software than to buy and have to install new hardware.
Rachio appears to have dropped the ball on a number of items; took away a desired and paid for feature and without warning, forced an upgrade without warning, botched the upgrade and lost or misplaced user data, followed that with a new hardware announcement (it’s typically best to announce new hardware prior to major software updates), and made the hardware announcement before they’d figured out details like WI+ for Gen 2 so that people can make a choice; stick with what I have, pay $30 or whatever for WI+, buy new hardware for buttons and radio.
I like Rachio. Or at least I want to like Rachio. I do think that at least for now they have the best controller available. The problem for Rachio will be when Toro or Hunter or Rain Machine, Weathermatic, Rain Bird, Irrotrol, Hydro or others match or beat Rachio’s capabilities and people are not sticky to Rachio because of issues like these. Sticky customers are worth a lot in future revenue.