Electron antenna connection trouble

Folks,
Just got my new electron and am mostly loving it. One thing i do not love is the mechanicals of the GSM antenna connection. I know thats a standard connector… but mine has bent so much that it no longer seats. and falls off regularly . I’ve tried bending it back. more or less successfully … … but it no longer holds tight. Electrically it must be fine because i can connect to the cloud without trouble. . Does anyone have an idea ofr making that more permanent ? right now I’m keeping it seated with tape. Should I use something like hot glue ? >> maybe next rev a more robust connector like SMA might be good (thought too big… i guess ?)…
Any thoughts welcome !
-jc

You could solder it in place.

has anyone done that ? … I’m afraid of overheating the board., damaging the connector . or shorting something

Just use very little solder on the outside contacts.

He is not a issue unless you just leave the iron on there for too long. It should be a simple easy fix.

The boards are cooked in a oven once all the parts are placed anyways.

Just a tad of solder will do on 2 parts of the outside edge.

So here’s the thing on those little connectors - they’re only good for a very few connect / disconnect cycles. Here’s a snip from Sparkfun:

As a result, female U.FL connectors will wear out after a several connections and will need to be replaced as they aren’t generally intended to be connected and disconnected multiple times.

Better to buy a different antenna and adapter if there’s going to be a need to connect or disconnect often. I know - that’s not helpful advice at this point. I wish I had better for you.

The Sparkfun article is a decent intro: RF connectors quick overview

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this is clearly a problem. The snap connection is terrible. THe one I received would not connect out of the box and support keeps telling me it;s fine. customer experience…

My advice? - with an u.FL you must put the connection in “square”, as if at an angle you will damage it very quickly - also like @MikeWhitten says, only a few cycles. Better to attach a uFL->SMA pigtail and have an antenna into that if you need to keep taking it on/off, course that costs a few $ extra.

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I soldered mine :slight_smile:

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I just unpacked my Electron & got to the antenna instructions. I have tri-focals. Even with a magnifying glass I could hardly see what I was doing. And I needed 3 hands. I immediately bent the outer rim of the on-board part. Somehow I managed to straighten it with my thumbnail (odd). And when I was ready to give up it stayed on. No “click”, though. Ugly! Is there some non-conducting glue that could be used safely? I tried “instant / super glue” in another project and found that it conducted all too well. Not nice, Particle.

Suggestions?

I’m sorry to hear you couldn’t see what you are doing and hence damaged the connector, but how would this really be someone else’s fault?

If I realize my hands are not steady enough or I can’t see how to feed a thread through the eye of a needle, I can hardly blame the needle maker if things don’t work out.

BTW, these connectors are standard devices, not designed by Particle.


This is only my personal oppinion and does not reflect Particles view of the issue, as I’m no Particle employee

I can see both sides of the story here.

The connectors are way more fragile than just any other connector I have ever seen or used before in my life. I tried to fix my kids wifi antenna on her ipad and ended up bending it all out of shape also even though I knew what to expect.

I can see it being frustrating to immediately bend the connector on the first try if your not lucky and have no idea what to expect.

It would probably not be a bad idea to put a sticker or warning label on the antenna cord just to let people know what to expect just to try to supply the best first experience.

It is a standard connector and I don’t think there is a good alternative in the same form factor so changing the connector type is not the way to fix this issue.

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Yeah, I can see the frustration factor too. They are fragile little things.

Yet… they are the standard for RF connectors on small boards. They have a bandwidth I’ve heard called “DC to daylight”, small insertion losses, and exactly what I’d expect on an embeddable RF module.

Maybe this didn’t rear it’s head so much on the Photon because the built-in antenna is acceptable. With the Electron everyone is going to have to mess with these and some (a lot, maybe) people will be encountering these for the first time.

It’s too late for a sticker. Perhaps a warning early on in the start page for the Electron would be in order?

I had the exact same situation; out of the box it didn’t fit or snap on properly. Especially when prototyping portability is essential. This connection being so fragile is a huge disappointment. I would expect a connector similar to the battery, robust, flexible and can be attached/detached thousands of times without issue. Disappointing…

Hi @tkurtz

A connector similar to the battery would not be electrically appropriate for an RF antenna signal and would not work properly. The connector that Particle chose (Hirose u.fl) is the industry standard connector for everything from cell phones to WiFi routers for antenna-to-board connections.

This connector was a good engineering choice for RF performance, compatibility with many kinds of antennas you can buy (check eBay) and small footprint on the board. It just may not be the most user friendly antenna connector, but there are positive benefits.

One key step when connecting it is to support the board underneath the connector when inserting the mating end from the cable. You can use the corner of a book or table to get under there for support and then make sure you press straight down on the mating part until it clicks in.

If you think you will be replacing the antenna often, you would want to invest in an adapter cable from u.fl to SMA or u.fl to N, but these cables are around $4 each. Choosing this style would have increased the cost of the Electron dramatically as the cable would add to cost and a new antenna with an expensive mating connector would be needed.

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FWIW… I have the same problem with eyesight. I got a UF.L to SMA adapter and carefully soldered the UF/L into the damaged socket with a very fine tipped soldering iron and a magnifier. Now i have a robust and removable antenna for both my GSM antennat and the GPS antenna on my ASSET TRACKING board.
-jc

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Well now I’m even more disappointed. To learn that you and Particle think its acceptable to deliver “industry standard” components and to provide customer service along these lines is an eye opener for me. Based on my experience with the Photon I expected more from Particle and invested my $ in the Electron concept sight unseen based on the trust I have gained with you and Particle. Good customer service in this situation would not be providing a link another component but to offer that component and solution to your valued customer at cost. Honest customer feedback is a gift and if you treat it poorly and react defensively I guess you and Particle are indeed just “industry standard”. If “industry standard” is now what you provide and strive for then I’ll invest my time and $ elsewhere, in a company that prides itself on leading industry rather than following it. You have personally helped me on many of my Photon projects and I sincerely appreciate that and spoke highly of Particle to my friends based on your great support. I hold you and Particle to a very high standard which I hope you would also appreciate.

Sincerely,
Todd

What exactly would you expect?
Are you expecting a leader in tech/industry for cars (lets take e.g. Tesla) to only use house made nuts and bolts and batteries and what not, or are you happily accepting the industry standard on that side?

Industry standard in this connection was rather meant as “state of the art” than “it’ll do”.

So I don’t feel your reaction is completely fair.

Really? I, and several others, are expressing that we were not expecting a fragile antenna connection. I now understand that I was ignorant and should have. My bad. I’ll go away and share my new experience with my friends about Particle.

A progressive company would elegantly spin this into a win/win. One that bolsters consumer confidence in the company, not undermine it. “Valued Particle Customers, we hear that some of you need a more robust antenna connection on your new Electron. No worries, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a kit that’ll make your wishes come true. As a bonus, because we love and value you, we’re offering it at cost. Thank you for your support! Have fun and please share with us how you’re using your new Electron.”

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Hi @tkurtz,

David from Particle here! I’m sorry you had trouble with the antenna connection. Although u.fl connectors get used a lot, they’re not a connector people necessarily expect, if you compare it to say, a usb jack.

Actually, we do sell the other adapter as well on the store for WiFi, the “RP-SMA to u.FL” converter. If you want one for the Electron, then you need u.fl - SMA (not RP-SMA), and you can find a quad band antenna here http://www.amazon.com/Quad-band-Cellular-Duck-Antenna-SMA/dp/B00GH0F26O .

u.fl to SMA adapter that should work (I think)

Sorry again about the issues you’ve been having. We did a ton of research to find the absolute best antennas available for the Electron, and we love the Taoglas antennas. Please do contact us directly if you feel the connector on your electron is broken, we’ve heard complaints that a very small number of devices had damaged u.fl connectors.

Thanks!
David

edit: fixed there -> they’re, I’m so embarrassed.

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@tkurtz I wanted to echo David’s message–we hear you, and thank you for your feedback.

u.FL connectors are not intended as highly durable connectors, but they should be robust enough to endure gently applied connection cycling. We will absolutely replace all Electrons with faulty connectors due to manufacturing error. If you believe your u.FL connector might be one of those, I encourage you to reach out to our support team.

What I agree we can do about the problem is add cautionary warnings to the setup process and provide users with clear instruction about best practices for connecting and disconnecting antennas. We can also explore adding the u.FL --> SMA adapters to our store at a reasonable price, so that users have a more robust option if they believe they will be cycling their antenna connection frequently.

Thanks again for your feedback–it’s started a helpful conversation about how Particle can improve our communication regarding this step of the Electron setup process with our new users.

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