Why is the Photon so expensive?

I am kind of baffled to why the Photon is still priced at $19, and especially with the Particle cloud now allowing RPi’s on the network.

I can currently get a pi zero for $5 + a wifi dongle for $6, and have a “monster photon” for $11 that is ridiculously more powerful and has way more pinouts/utility with it.

There really is no reason why a Photon should cost more than $10.

1 Like

So… Who exactly pays for your food? There’s really no reason you should be earning a salary if kids in China can do it cheaper. Right?

How about labour costs, certification costs, operation costs, development costs, support costs… Sure, you can ignore all those because you saw something priced at a lower tier somewhere else, but that’s not realistic. If I’m not mistaken, a lot of the work that went into the RPI ecosystem was ‘donated’ in one way or the other, be in in engineering time, or lower prices on chips, or other deals.

In that case, why would microcontrollers even still exist, since they’re clearly not ‘powerful’ enough, right? Ever tried doing timing sensitive stuff on a Pi? “Bigger numbers” in the specs don’t tell the whole story.

But hey, if you feel the Photon should be only $10, why not buy the P0 chips at that price, and then convince suppliers to hand you the remaining items for free because there’s “no reason they shouldn’t be” ;)?


Your assuming Particle doesn’t need to make a profit to pay for all of its expenses.


Im not assuming they don’t need to make money, nor ignorant of running costs of a company such as particle (I have my own company that does both software and hardware development).

This is simply based on what similar hardware is out there, and this board should not be priced at $19.

Keep in mind I am not even bring up their cloud fees in this discussion, because that is where they make most of their money (and your running costs argument is a moot point when you factor that in, since the cloud fees pay for that and then some). The photon board should cost whatever their BOM and assembly costs are for anyone paying anything over their free cloud tier, which I would peg to be around $3-5 in mass quantities.

When you buy a Photon you get some some nice IoT hardware, and you also get lifetime access to Particle’s services.

The Photon is a well engineered device, better than any Arduino clone you could buy, and cheaper than an official Arduino.

The Photon is also superior to ESP8266, and cheaper than Wi-Fi Arduinos.

Three to five dollars for a Photon? Do you have any knowledge of Economics?

Are you sure about that? Particle is paying for the best Amazon Servers to host their services. Also the majority of users have not created products in the dashboard, and are not paying cloud fees.


Yea of course that would make sense if your argument is from the side of a single user playing around with these. Im coming from someone that would like to use these in a startup environment where I would be ordering at least 1k protons photons and paying their 1K service fee.

That’s where things go wrong. You can’t just go “oh, hey, this board has Wifi and is cheaper, now all others have to hand out their stuff for free”.

How exactly do you imagine this to work? You use their product and decide you need additional (payed) features, so you get into a payed cloud tier. By some ‘twisted’ logic, that entitles you to their hardware, for free? Did the engineering time to design, manufacture, test, certify, support, etc, suddenly become free as well?
Honestly, please try to explain exactly why they should be handing this out for free, since I’m interested to know how that’d work.


Have you looked at Particle Wholesale? http://www-wholesale.particle.io/wholesale-b2b

You can get a large discount with volume pricing and bulk packaging.

Also, @will is the expert on all of this.

1 Like

The same reason you can get smart phone for “free” (which btw costs hundreds of times more than a photon in dev/bom/manu costs)…I wonder how they make that work… :smirk:

And what reason would that be? By the way your math is off by an order of magnitude.

1 Like

The way we get ‘free’ phones is by increasing the price on the monthly plan by (cost/duration of plan). I fail to find a reason for them to not make money on a product they’ve worked hard for to create, and for which there’s obviously demand (or we wouldn’t be having this discussion).


Photon is kind of opposite way. You pay for Photon and you get Cloud for free, as opposite to paying for cell network and getting device for free.
Feel free to use ESP***'s, they are in your desired price range. But what makes Photon (and rest of Particles) great is community and their Cloud. Worth a price of one lunch IMHO.


Just my two cents here… the Photon costs $19 because Particle are a bunch of cut-throat ripoff fly-by-nighter merchants who are more than happy to commit commercial suicide… er no… lets try that again:
a) it is a well made, designed, and certified product - it didn’t get a lot of development knowledge donated, nor does it get reduced cost parts because it is a made by a charity
b) it helps pay some of the costs for the free users, as we currently don’t pay a cent, but have full access to all of Particle’s services - unlike mobile phone providers, where you don’t pay for the phone… oh, wait, you do… it’s part of the plan… no wonder the prices went up when they included the ‘free phone’!
c) you can’t compare Single Board Computers with Microcontroller Units… there is just no comparison… SBCs crash for the most random of reasons… MCUs generally don’t!

But as a sidenote, the Digistump Oak is based on the ESP8266, received FCC and CE approval, retails for $10.95… and also has particle access… so make what you will of that! :laughing:


Isn’t the photon more reliable and stable than other ESP8266?

1 Like

But when a few $ count more then that :wink:

(sorry for the inappropriate sarcasm :joy:)


Hey @jstefanop we always appreciate feedback on our products.

I just want to make that this thread doesn’t become personal and less about the products.


1 Like

Hey, I tend to wonder about this from time to time. Let’s say we start with your monster photon at $11 (as you described). You pay an extra $5 for the lifetime cloud access, which really proves useful, and maybe we could justify the other $4 bucks for profit, cloud tools and others.
I don’t know the details, and maybe they don’t matter anymore to me, since that’s the way I justify my decision to keep buying Particles.
I’ve tried Wemos and raspPis and I really really like these freaking Particles. I still keep buying more and recommending them to my friends and colleagues…
EDIT: and now as a plus I can connect my raspberry pies to the particle cloud and program them the “particle way”. Impressive! :grin:
hope it helps!


$19 seems like a steal to me considering the support and community behind it which keeps me from getting stuck.

When I’m ready to mass produce I can always by P0 modules for $10 each and place them on my custom PCB.

That Certification that comes with the Photon module can save you 20-50K $ in FCC testing fees based on what I have read.

Like you I keep buying Photons & Electrons as I get better at learning how to use and program them :smiley:


I’m a huge supporter of Particle, but have to admit… I took advantage of buy two get one free cyber Monday!!!



I wish they would raise the price so I’d quit buying so many. They are too addictive at only $19. Damn you, Particle!