This will be be a cold boot review of the Electron. I am going to describe my first 15 minutes and hopefully provide some feedback and tips to make future products even better.
–First Impression: White Bag, Neutral Labeling, about the size of a small brick, fits in a mailbox.
(So far so good, no one has any idea what treasure lies within including the mailman!)
–Open the package and WOW! Just WOW! The box, the labeling, the fonts, the colors, just everything, WOW.
I have tried every platform Particle has released and every time it gets better. In this case I would call it superior to average and on the same level as Adafruit, but definitely well designed, engineered, and presented. Wait, am I still talking about the unopened box? Yes I am. A+ for Showmanship and overall design exciting the user to open it as fast as a child on Christmas day, but no to the point you damage your loot.
–Open the box up and what? Everything has a place!!! Even the Electron has a paper guide on the protoboard with information for newbies!
(I can’t consider myself a newbie, but I have deep respect for capturing the user while giving them the first steps.) Everything has a nice clean matching box, and is packed with care. (Mine was a bit jumbled, but it happens and I can’t fault Particle for the battery trying to escape, Lithium man, it seems to really not like to be idle)
–Every Cable in it’s place, every item designed to be in it’s place, even an Antenna tucked perfectly in there! Even a cute box to keep it all and to stare at unnaturally thinking about how many servos you can fit on it, and if you want to make the box walk around like a strange bug transformer hybrid.
–Setup was pretty self explanatory, but here is where I had some suggestions.
–>Cell connections are wonky!
In Texas and in Illinois where I have lived, cellular coverage is not a blanket. It is like the sun through the trees while you driving in the morning or at sunset. Some here, none there, and maybe some later. Here is where a guide would be excellent with some background information about Cellular networks, a description about how Signal does not equal bandwidth and how your significant other can eat your Electrons bandwidth with their Candy Crush… Maybe some tips on things that will increase, decrease, or stabilize the signal. For example PRE 1970s houses rarely have grounds, so the EMI is all over the place, and not just in your house, but everyone around you. So you will be randomly walking through the hallway scratching your noise and suddenly: A text from 2 hours ago. Afraid to move your finger you suddenly get all the data you want till you sneeze and now nothing again. You stand on your hands and attempt to please the EMI gods, but they cast you into shadow and you are forced to walk outside in the cold and hope it comes fast…
(Short: Cell tower are overloaded, signals are all over the place and not where you expect, and some devices HELP get a good signal that shouldn’t or shouldn’t effect anything, maybe compile some tips and add it to the guide)
–I have to say the documentation went up 2 notches with this release and other than a few delays, the release was excellent to follow and watch, and having community members participate, give feedback that is taken, and be a part of the process is your ace in the hole here. Adafruit has followed this for years, and bigger companies are just starting to realize treating us like idiots was so 2003. So keep those tools sharp and you have a long enjoyable run in front of you before the IBM types catch on.
–One thing I would like to see is a compiled datasheet or even better an interactive program for the Particle products.
Originally I would have suggested a PDF for paper users, but I was writing this thinking, blow everyone away and make a Program/App/Flash that is interactive with the documentation inside. Example, install the program/app, plug the Electron/Photon/Core into the computer and the program puts a smiley face on the screen and says "Thank you for Surcharging a “Product!” “Let me grab the latest goodies from the Cloud on how these work!” Then it would pull the most current (or the “base” stock install if no internet is available) documentation from the site, but in a flash format that would allow you to manipulate the documentation with Multi-point gestures, have interactive tutorials where you can click on pins and learn what they do and what others do with them. I think this would be more fun for first timers, but you would want it to be a one time thing and have a “expert” button that takes you to the Particle CLI/GUI/Node in a quick and nice format. (Maybe have a talking version of the product like “Clippy” but "Pho, Ellen, Cort [sorry that is the best avatar names I can come up with for now…] that confirms it is connected and lets you know the status of the product, and maybe spits out Serial console/DFU information in a movable widget that can be closed)
–OK, so now some negative.
Going on hour 2 trying to please the Electron to activate, and I assume get a signal to receive the programming from the setup I completed. (It got stuck on the page that says it will take 1 minute)
I would attribute this to EMI, but it is a “hole” in the continuity of the product. I can’t say it has anything to do with Particle since Cell phone carriers are the media delivery, but maybe some tips and positive re-enforcement/encouragement/laughter if it doesn’t work right away with a guide on the lights. It is possible someone will pick up an Electron with nothing but a cell phone to read everything on, that also has a bad signal leaving the user with a half of page of documentation and a Electron that won’t activate. I hope in a few years (Well tomorrow), this isn’t a problem for anyone, but today I am running off a hotspot and I think the hotspot and the Electron are having a duel over who gets the cloud.
This is where I have to stop since I am not 100% done with the review, process, or setup. This doesn’t mean anything really, just that I will write back when I get a bit farther. Overall 9/10 for first impressions, and I am a hard customer.