WayTools' TextBlade Keyboard to Start Shipping to Test Group Users Next Week

Discussion in 'iOS Blog Discussion' started by MacRumors, Feb 19, 2016.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot

    MacRumors

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    [​IMG]


    In January of 2015, WayTools announced the TextBlade, a compact, collapsible keyboard that sparked a lot of interest with its unique multilayered layout that replaces a full keyboard with eight large smart keys.

    Refinements, production issues, and other hiccups have long delayed the release of the TextBlade, which was originally scheduled to ship out to pre-order customers in the early months of 2015. After a long development period that has frustrated many early customers, WayTools is finally ready to begin shipping the TextBlade, albeit with a caveat - a limited number of test customers will receive the first TextBlades that are going out, to provide final feedback before a full rollout.

    [​IMG]

    Starting late next week, pre-order customers who signed up for the TextBlade Test Release Group (TREG) in January and were accepted will start receiving TextBlade shipments. TextBlades will go out to testers on a rolling basis with shipments happening every few days. The Test Release Group was announced to customers through their pre-order page and while WayTools can't accommodate everyone who applied, a couple hundred customers will be participating and will be receiving TextBlades.

    [​IMG]

    Mark Knighton, WayTools' CEO, says the company is using the Test Release Group to iron out final bugs ahead of the full TextBlade release.
    Customers who are not part of the testing group will need to wait longer to receive their TextBlades, and the wait is dependent on the outcome of the testing. Should all go well, a general release could happen towards the end of March, but the wait could be several weeks longer. "TREG tests will be complete when users give us the thumbs up," said Knighton. "Based on what we find together, that may take as little as a week, or up to several weeks. When the TREG users are happy, we'll start the broader release."

    To give users who are awaiting their own TextBlades a first look at a TextBlade in the wild, WayTools sent me one under the same confidentiality agreement as the testing group. I'll share some unboxing photos and initial thoughts on the TextBlade below, but there are still a few details that will remain under wraps until the final release.


    Click here to read rest of article...

    Article Link: WayTools' TextBlade Keyboard to Start Shipping to Test Group Users Next Week
     
  2. SteveJobs2.0 macrumors 6502a

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    #2
    Corner case this, corner case that. Doesn't exude confidence.
     
  3. iMarc845 macrumors member

    iMarc845

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    #3
    I know that MANY of us on the WayTools forum would REALLY like for their silence to end. But so far, they haven't spoken much at all in the last six or eight weeks.

    It's encouraging to hear that it works well. But why are there less than ten folks from the WayTools forum selected for TREG? Who are the other 192 testers? And why do they qualify more than so many of us?
     
  4. ZipZap macrumors 601

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    Dec 14, 2007
    #4
    Who is this test group. I never received any call for testers. I ordered January 13, 2015. It was not until February 2016 that I saw a post on this site which reminded me to check in. Only after reviewing the Waytools forum did I find out about the test group.

    So I submit that this test group is entirely made up of Waytools employees and friends, and that this announcement is meant to somehow justify more delays.

    I mean what kind of company has so seriously under designed their product so as to need another 1.5 years to get it done?

    Was this not due for delivery May 2015? How can you make such a claim and then take another year?
     
  5. jblagden, Feb 19, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 20, 2016

    jblagden macrumors 6502a

    jblagden

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  6. mp3monkey macrumors newbie

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    #6
    I can confirm, as a daily visitor to the @WayTools forums, that there are at least 10 forum members that have been chosen for the testing group (TREG). I PM'd WayTools to ask if they would be extending TREG to the UK, where I live, and they replied to say that they already had reached out to a least one person in the UK. That has been confirmed by a post on the forum but his or her details haven't been updated in the thread that that is tracking forum TREGers.
     
  7. AnthLC macrumors newbie

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    #7
    I really do appreciate the article and very help. Cheers
     
  8. KaliYoni, Feb 19, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2016

    KaliYoni macrumors member

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    #8
    Anybody who is unfamiliar with the long and convoluted saga of TextBlade's development and preorder process owes it to themselves to take a look at this message board on WayTools' website:
    https://forum.waytools.com/c/rants

    Based on WayTools' behavior and demeanor toward its customers over the last 13+ months, it may be best to hold off on placing an order until it is clear the company is truly offering the product to all comers in a timely manner and that the TextBlades users possess are not only handmade bespoke sample units.

    I have to say as a longtime MacRumors reader (but new poster, obviously), I'm disappointed in the role MacRumors has played in helping WayTools accept preorders and payments a long, long, long time before the TextBlade was even ready for a (paid!) beta test. In the interest of objectivity and fairness, I urge MacRumors to assign a reviewer to the TextBlade who was not involved in any of the "preview" or "update" articles MacRumors published about the TextBlade.
     
  9. brownpaw macrumors regular

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    Apr 18, 2010
    #9
    I've had a preorder on the books for around a year now. It's discouraging that it's taking so long, but I'm still very excited about this product. I travel quite a bit -- backpacker style -- and the more I can minimize, the better. I like the ability to have an actual keyboard for writing and not a touchscreen, and I don't like the liability of carrying an actual laptop with me. The Textblade is what finally may let me have a viable setup with a cheap 7" tablet. I'm still waiting patiently -- hope it's worth it.
     
  10. ZipZap macrumors 601

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    #10
    You miss the point of Textblade.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 19, 2016 ---
    Its all very fishy, why was't there an official request for testers?
     
  11. ericpeets macrumors newbie

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    Feb 19, 2016
    #11
    Thank you for this update, Juli. Many of us appreciate your coverage on Textblade and Waytools over the year.

    While the Textblade itself seems like a wonderful technology that's unique (especially after reading your reading your current post), I feel morally obligated to warn potential buyers about the company that is Waytools.

    I've never dealt with a company that's more backwards, opaque and downright hostile to customers than Waytools. They promised transparency and accurate status of your order on their website, but they never provide a straight answer to anything and the shipping status has become a joke within the forum. They always say they'll ship by end of such and such month, even after that date passed. They always say they worked out such and such bugs, never telling you what's wrong or what they're aiming to fix, leaving everyone in the dark and with false hope that it's going to ship soon.

    They've been doing this every month almost like clockwork for the last year.

    But it gets better (or should I say worse). A year ago, they went on a rampage where they accused everyone questioning their service as a shill or a spy for a competitor, and later even cancelling the orders of people posting complaints or otherwise negative things about them (mostly their horrid customer service), to a point where people had to put "Waytools: do not cancel my order" in their posts' signature, for fear of triggering another paranoid response from them.

    But this TREG escapade is the worst by far. It's completely mired in secrecy and all this unnecessary cloak-and-dagger BS that Waytools seems to get off on. No one knows exactly how many were picked as testers, from where, by what criteria, for what purpose, nor how long it will all take. From what I can gather, it took Waytools about a week to choose a person, one week to send them a non-disclosure agreement, one week to arrange some sort of shipment schedule which may not happen for a while because they're still testing the testing units before sending out.

    So, I'm shocked that you received one, because as far as I know, no one who signed up for TREG has received one yet, nor will they in the near future... nevermind the rest of the early adopters like me who ordered more than a year ago.

    But here's the final kicker. They have implemented a remote kill switch and key logger into the testing units. Waytools has admitted to that and insists they're necessary for testing purposes, and that it will be removed after testing. So, unless they have a completely different build for the general release units, those two malwares will be present in every Textblade unit, whether dormant or not. Now, I may be overblowing the potential harm that can come out of this, but in the age of Edward Snowden and NSA's fallout, this is at best a boneheaded move on the part of Waytools, whether they're truly needed for testing or not.

    With all that said, I still do like the idea of Textblade and the technology, but the Waytools company is the worst I've ever dealt with in all my years of being a tech gadget freak. At some point, it's not worth the nightmare of dealing with such a sanctimonious, pompous and horrendous company. If and when you do receive one, know that you're getting an orphan, because I guarantee you won't be getting any support.
     
  12. Ibjr macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    Waytools is bad news. They are going to ship nearly eleventh months ago. Why MR keeps covering this company is beyond me. It should be embarrassing to Macrumors.
     
  13. Anonymous 316 macrumors newbie

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    Feb 19, 2016
    #13
    Waytools is a friggin' mess. I ordered a Textblade the first day it came out. After over a year of delays I finally cancelled my order. The *only* nice thing to say about them is they refunded my purchase quickly. I have no idea why MacRumors has given them so much coverage for a product that has been nothing but a complete disappointment.
     
  14. bobdobalina, Feb 19, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2016

    bobdobalina macrumors regular

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  15. dabigkahuna macrumors 6502

    dabigkahuna

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    #15
    Let me correct some misinformation posted in some comments.

    First, the TREG test group is not Waytools friends and employees. I'm one of them and I don't know a single person at Waytools. Others selected can tell you the same thing.

    There was a request for testers on their status page. Anyone who checked their status after they made the announcement could see it and sign up.

    They do provide straight answers to many thing. They also need to do so more often, but no need to exaggerate the issue!

    Same for telling us what is wrong. They do this, but not often enough. No need to exaggerate.

    TREG isn't all that secretive either. Sure, they don't tell us how they chose certain people, but what company does? We signed an agreement which is darn lenient, in my opinion. We can't talk about future products we may learn about. Nothing wrong with that. But we can report our experiences anywhere we want. We can even report on our communications with Waytools. I just did that yesterday as I was one of those called by Waytools about TREG. We talked about a number of things and I reported it on their forum for others to see. I'm not the only one called who did that.

    Shipping is estimated for the latter part of next week but, yeah, that depends on how their other testing goes. Is this cause for concern? Sure. But is there really anything wrong with it in principle? I don't think so. Only if you assume it is just an illegitimate excuse to delay things. Assumptions aren't good. So it makes no sense to just declare we won't get the units in the near future, even if they miss next week.

    There is no remote kill switch. Testers will have a temporary token which must be periodically updated by running the TextBlade app. If it isn't updated, the unit will stop working, but it is all internal to your system. This is just logical security. Furthermore, there are not two different builds (one for testing and one not). When testing is done, all units get a permanent token - thus the same code which simply looks at the token periodically.

    The key logger is no big deal either. First, the USER has to turn it on. If turned on, it tracks the last minute of typing. This lets the system track what was happening to lead up to a problem. Second, IF you turn it on, then nothing gets sent until the USER gets to see what was logged and only then, IF THE USER decides to, they can upload it to Waytool to help with debugging.

    There are plenty of things to complain about, but some of the complaints are either not true or are exaggerated. Accuracy is best so people can decide what matters to them if considering a purchase.
     
  16. ericpeets macrumors newbie

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    #16
    Juli,

    I do have to admit that your original article (and in turn, MacRumors) had a lot of influence on many people who ordered, evinced by people who said so on the forum. While I don't think you or MacRumors should bear the blunt of the Waytools debacle (we're all adults who decided to order ultimately on our own accord), I do think if you're also a customer, rather than just a reporter, you owe it to yourself to ask Waytools and also Knighton some hard, tough (but really basic) questions. Certainly, the early adopters community would surely appreciate it immensely.

    It's apparent that you're the only person they've provided any answers to. At least meaningful ones that didn't raise more questions or ire. So, please just keep the following ones in mind the next time you talk to them:

    1) When do they realistically expect to ship to everyone? You mentioned end of March. Is that your estimation or did Waytools tell you?

    2) How much time are they allotting for TREG? Because, according to them, it's the only thing blocking general shipment. What tests do they need to do on the test units, which again according to them is the only thing keeping them from shipping out the test units to testers.

    3) What is the reason for their months of radio silence? Several times, they'd simply end all communications for months at a time. Even now, we're in the midst of radio silence. What is the preferred method of communication with them other than the forum, email and telephone (all of which many, including me, have tried but to no avail).

    4) What is the problem with the product right now, whether it's hardware or software or both? Obviously, they see a problem since they're not shipping it, not even to the TREG testers. And the fact that they're even doing TREG must mean there's a problem, right? Why they refuse to acknowledge this, yet do all things that indicate otherwise is beyond me. I think everyone will understand, even sympathize, if they just come out and tell us. But they don't.

    5) What IS the early adopter's gift they speak of? I think it's a benign question that doesn't go against any corporate policy, or endanger their IP in any way. I think at this point in time, they owe it to us to tell us what it is, otherwise we can only assume it's just a tactic to string people along. In other words, it doesn't have to yet another thing that serve only to irritate people.
     
  17. glindon macrumors member

    glindon

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    Phoenix
    #17
    They lost me as a customer after I waited a several months for my preorder. If I remember they were supposed to ship last May. Preorder to me means you get it in a 1-3 months. Now that I've got a Smart Keyboard and iPad Pro they'll never get me as a customer. Their loss.
     
  18. dabigkahuna macrumors 6502

    dabigkahuna

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    #18
    I can answer some of your questions.

    1. This is tricky because, since they are still testing, almost by definition you can't be sure. We already know they had a series of issues, both hardware and firmware. They said the hardware is considered finished. The present testing is about firmware. Apparently it is generally testing well, but there are rare occurrences of things not working right. I can't tell you how serious it is or how good it has to be before they decide it is "good enough". But even if it already seems good enough, that doesn't mean the present testing won't reveal something more serious. Same with the TREG testing. I think their hope is that the units they send out will meet their standard and then the TREG testers essentially make sure. But they could turn up something.

    So, basically, no one, including Waytools can be sure what is "realistic".

    2. If no problems are found by TREG testers, they estimate a week. Obviously if there are problems, it just depends on how long to fix those things. At least with TREG there will be a number of people who can report, publicly, their experiences.

    4. One problem is that it sometimes gets confused over "modes". That could mean a couple things, but I'd compare it to when you use an app on you iPhone, then do something else, and then when you go back to the app, it doesn't work. You have to remove it from the recent app list and relaunch. I specifically asked about whether they thought hardware was solved and was told it was. Though you never know for sure.

    Some of the stuff I said was from my conversation with Mark Knighton, as one of the TREG testers he called. But some of it has either been posted in the forums or on status pages. They generally don't go into as much detail as I'd like. And they probably don't tell us all the problems at the time. But they do give us some info.

    She isn't allowed to tell. You may want to know. I may want to know. But really, they don't have to say. It's a bonus, whatever it is, rather than part of the product.

    Their choice. We can decide we don't like their choice and act accordingly. That is our choice. Really, the only reason it is a big deal to anyone is because they are ticked off about all the delays. Otherwise it wouldn't be an issue.
     
  19. Cazualchatter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 19, 2014
    #19
    #macrumors why are you not more critical of this company whose product you are so supportive of? Is there some kind of relationship we are not aware of?

    People (including me) placed orders and waited several months (9 months for me) on the effusive article you wrote and only to continue to build hopes of your patrons over a year of delay and now only to inform us that this product is still in the lab.

    Readers please do not expect any product release from this company.

    We expect better than this from you #macrumors and remember you are damaging your reputation by backing the wrong horse..

    .. I think you should stick to rumors. No one believes them and your reputation stays protected.

    Oh, and as I mentioned it before there is one area Waytools has kept their promise with surprising accuracy.. They refund the money immediately.
     
  20. jclo Editor

    jclo

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    California
    #20
    FYI, I did ask some of these exact questions. I read the WayTools forums too and I tried to ask the questions that pre-order customers were curious about. I included what information I had in my post, for the most part, but here are some additional tidbits from my notes.

    Dabigkahuna's post mirrors a lot of what I was told, too, so WayTools is sharing the same info with me that some of the TREG testers are getting.

    1. March is not my estimation. "As early as March" is when the TextBlades could be shipping out if the TREG testing goes well. WayTools has "good inventory" on hand and is ready to start shipments when testing ends. They don't have a firm shipping date because they don't know what minor issues might be uncovered in the TREG testing. I've basically been told that it could be as little as a week or up to several weeks and that shipping will happen when TREG users sign off on the product.

    2. There isn't a specific time allotment for TREG, but they are going aiming for a qualitative balance. Testing is "not going to drag on forever" but if a problem is uncovered by TREG, they're going to fix it. While they are planning to move forward based on the feedback from TREG, a few users won't be able to hold up the process. WayTools will review all of the feedback from TREG users and evaluate what needs immediate fixing and what can wait. Things they think will really interfere with the overall experience will be addressed, but rare use case "corner bugs" will be fixed later so every small thing uncovered won't result in another delay.

    3. I didn't ask this because I was focused on the immediate questions surrounding shipping. I met the WayTools team. It's small. My personal guess on this question is that there's been a lot of work to do and there's no person on the team specifically dedicated to interacting with customers. I'm not making an excuse for WayTools, though. A lack of communication has been the major complaint that I've heard multiple times from people who have gotten in contact with me. Better communication could have gone a long way towards easing the wait and I understand the frustration. It's been very frustrating and upsetting for me, too. I have received angry and abusive comments and emails for writing about the TextBlade so I know firsthand how people are feeling about the situation. WayTools could benefit from a community person who's able to address these problems.

    4. I specifically addressed this in my post. No hardware issues and they don't expect major bugs to be uncovered. They're working on refining software and firmware and think most of what will be uncovered will be "corner cases" where it's an unusual use case. Things that happen when you press a strange key combination. There are some instances where the TextBlade can get "stuck" and a key won't respond or it'll display the wrong letter. Those are software failures, and a lot of those have been fixed, but "some of that may come up." That's what they're looking for with the testing. I can personally tell you that so far, I haven't run into one of these issues, but a lot more pops up with a few hundred users vs. a handful.

    5. I agreed not to share this information. They want it to be a surprise.
     
  21. macduke macrumors 603

    macduke

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    #21
    This company sounds like a train wreck. Combine that with hardware which looks too complex shipping with extra butterfly mechanisms and a little charger piece I'll surely lose with a high price point and yeah, I'm gonna have to pass on this one. I've been using my iPhone to take notes during usability testing in a cramped room this week and tapping out quick notes with my thumbs is plenty fast and what the phone is already designed for.
     
  22. iMarc845 macrumors member

    iMarc845

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    Jul 3, 2008
    Location:
    Rockland County, NY
    #22
    Hi Juli,

    Thanks for the additional info. I appreciate you taking the time to post it.

    I'm sure you've taken a lot of abuse... Even now, folks are blasting MacRumors for "supporting" WayTools and the TextBlade when it's obvious to me that's not the case. I take it that MacRumors and you are attempting to help get answers for us folks who can't/aren't getting them from WayTools. (Maybe I'm just a naïve "glass-half-fuller" :) )

    I'm not asking you to break any confidentiality agreements nor to ruin the "surprise" of the Early-Adopter Bonus. But WayTools told us long ago that the earlier one ordered, the more/bigger/better the gift would be. There has been some speculation as to whether that was still true or if WayTools had abandoned that paradigm. In your opinion, is it something that will scale to some level of Good - Better - Even Better - Best?

    Again, I thank you for what you've told us and for whatever other information you feel you can or should share.
     
  23. Pagemakers macrumors 68000

    Pagemakers

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    Manchester UK
    #23
    They had my money a year ago and I'm still waiting. Since then I've purchased a iPad Pro so maybe it's time I cancelled my order.
     
  24. DoofenshmirtzEI macrumors 6502a

    DoofenshmirtzEI

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2011
    #24
    I ordered one in January 2015 when they said it was "entering mass production". Their website showed my unit had an expected ship date in March 2015. The sheer incompetence and bad faith demonstrated by this company over the months since then means that I will very likely never do business with them again, and certainly not for anything that isn't actually shipping to customers.
     
  25. nick42983 macrumors 6502

    nick42983

    Joined:
    May 18, 2009
    Location:
    California
    #25
    It sounds like a frustrating experience. I remember thinking this looked interesting when I first read about it a year (!) ago. I find it hard to believe that people have been this patient. A free market works when people vote with their wallets. This thing looks cool, but it's not a pacemaker or a heart valve, you can live without it. A competitor with a comparable product and superior service will come along soon. Personally I wouldn't give a dime to Waytools. Mass cancellations of orders is the only way to light a fire under their butts. I agree with an earlier commenter questioning MacRumor's role in this. Why are they promoting a company that has shafted their customers? They should be told to act better or go F themselves until they have a product that is ready to ship.


     

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