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MacRumors

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In January, WayTools announced the TextBlade, a compact, collapsible keyboard for iOS devices and Macs that's quite unlike anything else that's available on the market. It replaces a full keyboard with eight large smart keys that take advantage of multilayering, giving users access to a complete set of keys and commands on a keyboard that fits into a pocket.

WayTools began accepting pre-orders for the TextBlade at that time, garnering a huge amount of interest from people who were excited about the promise of a better mobile keyboard. The company initially planned to ship in February, but as customers who pre-ordered know, the TextBlade has yet to ship, having faced unforeseen production problems that led to a series of design tweaks.


I visited WayTools in Santa Monica in March and was able to be one of the first people to see the TextBlade in person, give it a try, and watch it in action. The post that I shared of my experience garnered a huge amount of interest from MacRumors readers and other people curious about the TextBlade, and since then, I've been asked by readers on multiple occasions to share an update about what's going on behind the scenes at WayTools to cause the shipment delays.

As of today, I'm able to provide an update, following multiple conversations with WayTools' CEO Mark Knighton, where we walked through the delays and went over some of the new features that have been added to the TextBlade since January. WayTools will be publishing an in-depth blog post that goes into even more detail on the problems the company faced with production, and I'll update this post to add a direct link as soon as it's live.

Production Issues

Before launching pre-orders, WayTools did production runs and quality tests on the TextBlade and the parts ready to go, but transitioning from testing runs to mass production can expose unforeseen issues. With mass production, a product that might have been assembled by a small team is now put together in parts by a huge number of workers and if the production process isn't streamlined to the minutest detail, you're not always going to get a consistent product.


Click here to read rest of article...

Article Link: TextBlade Update: An Inside Look at Production Troubles and New Info on Shipping Estimates
 

CFreymarc

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Sep 4, 2009
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These are very expensive and hard lessons they are learning. Many with experience in accessory design were turned away after calling down in spades this fiasco before it happened.

Now if they are big enough of a character to make those calls, swallow their pride and get those people to do it right, they can save this endeavor.
 
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yukyuklee

macrumors 6502
Jan 4, 2011
368
40
Boston, MA
after learning to type with that keyboard and going back to a real size, you will have to relearn how to type on a normal keyboard lol
 
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CarlJ

macrumors 603
Feb 23, 2004
5,279
9,129
San Diego, CA, USA
I'm just happy that they're sweating the details up front, rather than shipping hardware that's 90% and having lots of unhappy customers.

Now if they are big enough of a character to make those calls, swallow their pride and get those people to do it right, they can save this endeavor.
So, the only way it can possibly work is if they call in the experts? Were those experts born with the innate knowledge of how to do it right? Magically anointed? Everybody learns somewhere. Sounds like they learned a lot of lessons the expensive way, but I'll wait until the hardware they ship fails to call it an unsaveable disaster.
 
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cult hero

macrumors 65816
Jun 6, 2005
1,064
834
I'm so excited about these. I ordered mine in May and I have a feeling it's going to be my primary input device once I get used to it—even on my laptop. We'll see. If it works as well as I think it can it could potentially change which device is my go-to device for work.
 
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iSpock

macrumors member
Sep 6, 2012
71
30
Prospect, PA - Near Pittsburgh
I am an early adopter, I pre-ordered my TextBlade on Jan. 13. I have been and continue to wait ...patiently.... I applaud MacRumors for posting this in depth update on the status of production. This post answers the questions put forth on the TextBlade forum that have been unanswered for months. As a customer facing person that has worked in multiples startups I understand these issues intimately, including the fear of setting false customer expectations. That being said, an overview of these problems as they occurred would have made the wait easier for many of my fellow early adopters. Kudos to MacRumors for the article and TextBlade for a revolutionary new product that I am looking forward to using.
 
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Kabeyun

macrumors 68040
Mar 27, 2004
3,057
5,735
Eastern USA
I applaud MacRumors for posting this in depth update on the status of production. This post answers the questions put forth on the TextBlade forum that have been unanswered for months.
On the other hand, this absurdly long article is essentially an unpaid advertisement for Waytools and their new product. It's a plea by the biased reporter not to give up on the TextBlade. Many kickstarter products have failed, and for similar reasons. MacRumors has chosen this one to bless with special treatment because the reporter likes it. Paragraphs like this are a dead giveaway:

At many points during production, there were problems that could have been swept under the rug and fixed in a later iteration, but the WayTools team has a high standard for its first run product and doesn't plan to compromise on quality for the sake of getting a product out faster because a flaw could "spoil the magic," as Knighton says.​

Seriously? This is dispassionate reporting? No, this is a PR push on behalf of Waytools. I can just imagine Knighton and Clover having a coffee, Knighton asking her to maybe make her write up as helpful as she can.

Looks like Waytools isn't the only one needing better quality control. MacRumors should refocus on reporting and less on sponsorship if it wants to maintain credibility. CultOfMac is hiring if Clover wants to change jobs.

And yes, I ordered a TextBlade too. I just don't need to be reminded by MacRumors how wonderful Waytools is. Point me to their blog and I'll decide for myself.

-K
 
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Gsoz

macrumors member
Jun 14, 2011
34
21
Denmark
I am really looking forward to getting my hands on this keyboard, so close now.

I don't mind them taking their time and I don't mind MacRumors writing about it - PR or not, an update is welcomed.
 
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CelestialToys

macrumors 6502
Aug 4, 2013
359
168
up above the streets and houses
Interesting that this article was published prior to the same information being shared with existing customers.

I'm sure that any accusation of the article being an advertorial will be slapped down as it was last time this product was advertised on MR. It is however a little suspicious to find a supposed unbiased report that is so glowing and without any mention of Waytools abysmal customer service. Evidence of which can easily be found with a quick look at their own forums.

I am not a customer of waytools, so they don't have to cancel my order.
 
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CFreymarc

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Sep 4, 2009
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I'm just happy that they're sweating the details up front, rather than shipping hardware that's 90% and having lots of unhappy customers.


So, the only way it can possibly work is if they call in the experts? Were those experts born with the innate knowledge of how to do it right? Magically anointed?

Worst, these guys think they were magically anointed and refused to accept help of the more experienced. That is how they were burned. Get a million in groupfunding and you think you are a god. Reality is you're just getting started.

While Jobs and Woz are over glorified about their garage, the reality is that the Apple ][ came about when they got their first investment round and hired industry experts with over twenty years experience in the business getting the hardware to a production level. Many were HP vets going back to the '50s.

Same thing happened with the Pebble crew after their first pilot build tanked. The best in this business learn from the mistakes of others and pull in the experts that have dirt from the trail on their boots.
 
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CFreymarc

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Sep 4, 2009
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This story give me an appreciation for how Apple manages the complexity of, say, a MacBook's creation. Consumers take for granted the number of things that can go wrong just in the supply chain.

You have that right. Seen situations where builds were held "hostage" til parts were paid for at inflated and "required" prices. Handling a million unit build has logistics that are daunting.
 
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iMarc845

macrumors member
Jul 3, 2008
99
22
Rockland County, NY
I don't mind them taking their time and I don't mind MacRumors writing about it - PR or not, an update is welcomed.

I AM glad WayTools' standards are high and they are working to get the TextBlade "... right the first time ...". I agree with CelestialToys that this detailed information SHOULD have been provided to paid customers before being posted by MacRumors. But I must applaud Juli Clover for giving us the answers that WayTools has promised us yet has not yet gotten around to posting on their blog. As a paid customer, I am disappointed in WayTools for their recent lack of transparency as to the nature of the delays.

I WANT an amazing, fault-free TextBlade. I WANT WayTools to focus on getting all the little details worked out. But I also WANT them to provide a little more detail as to what's going on... They promised us that when we paid for our TextBlades. I WANT to have some ideas as to the current plans and current expectations for the shipping schedule. I am not asking for the kind of up-to-the-minute website status updates they provided at the start. I WANT a simple text-based status update every seven to ten calendar days posted where interested parties can locate it. This is a reasonable request that should not require so much effort as to cause additional delays. [WayTools has maintained in several forum replies that they'd (paraphrasing) '... rather focus on actually solving the issues than explaining them ...'.) Several posters have replied that (paraphrasing) '... We don't need fancy graphics or video, just a quick statement of what's going on ...'.]

A note aside to readers who may liken this to KickStarter, etc. and think we're a bunch of whiny babies: We were told when we placed our orders months ago that TextBlades were in production and would be delivered within some 60 days or so. WayTools charged our cards immediately upon order placement. They also promised us "transparency" (their word) every step of the way so we'd understand the causes of any unforeseen delays, etc. At first, they were very forthcoming with information and updates. But in the last few months, that had been greatly reduced. In the last week or so, they have given us (and Juli Clover) more information. I applaud and appreciate that. But there have also been a few snarky comments and a larger number of obtuse, unclear ones made in the forum from the official @WayTools user account. And there are also instances where that same account has canceled peoples' orders without the customer requesting them to do so. WayTools has always provided a simple, automated online method for any customer who chose not to wait any longer to cancel their order and receive a refund. Many of us have taken to adding a disclaimer to our forum posts to the effect that:

Despite anything I may post here, I know where the 'Refund' button is. I am not authorizing WayTools to cancel my order for me under any circumstances until or unless I choose to do so myself.​
 
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iMarc845

macrumors member
Jul 3, 2008
99
22
Rockland County, NY
Footnote:

In case anyone doubts it, I AM rooting for WayTools to overcome the numerous hurdles and provide a potentially game-changing input device. Their design is terrific and they are nearing the proverbial finish line (I hope!!). I do understand that creating new hardware is difficult and fraught with unexpected potholes. I just want them to "... Keep us in the loop ..." as the said they would.

I want this thing so badly I can taste it! Based upon its design, it has the potential to provide me with the ability to touch-type - a task I cannot accomplish with a standard keyboard. I'll omit the detailed explanation of why, but the only time I could ever touch-type was with a very special keyboard called the DataHand. {Check out the wikipedia page on that little beauty if you want to see the definition of "unusual."}
 
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nostaws

macrumors 6502
Jan 14, 2006
458
221
LOL. "macrumors"

1. This article should have been a text blade press release.
2. The MacRumors Article should have been: "text blade issues press release over machining, and shipping issues of their revolutionary keyboard."
3. Then should have linked to the article/release on the WayTools site.

I am really looking forward to getting my hands on this keyboard, so close now.
I don't mind them taking their time and I don't mind MacRumors writing about it - PR or not, an update is welcomed.
 
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rmatthewware

macrumors 6502
Jul 22, 2009
493
126
These are very expensive and hard lessons they are learning. Many with experience in accessory design were turned away after calling down in spades this fiasco before it happened.

Now if they are big enough of a character to make those calls, swallow their pride and get those people to do it right, they can save this endeavor.
Get over it.
 
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rmatthewware

macrumors 6502
Jul 22, 2009
493
126
On the other hand, this absurdly long article is essentially an unpaid advertisement for Waytools and their new product. It's a plea by the biased reporter not to give up on the TextBlade. Many kickstarter products have failed, and for similar reasons. MacRumors has chosen this one to bless with special treatment because the reporter likes it. Paragraphs like this are a dead giveaway:

At many points during production, there were problems that could have been swept under the rug and fixed in a later iteration, but the WayTools team has a high standard for its first run product and doesn't plan to compromise on quality for the sake of getting a product out faster because a flaw could "spoil the magic," as Knighton says.​

Seriously? This is dispassionate reporting? No, this is a PR push on behalf of Waytools. I can just imagine Knighton and Clover having a coffee, Knighton asking her to maybe make her write up as helpful as she can.

Looks like Waytools isn't the only one needing better quality control. MacRumors should refocus on reporting and less on sponsorship if it wants to maintain credibility. CultOfMac is hiring if Clover wants to change jobs.

And yes, I ordered a TextBlade too. I just don't need to be reminded by MacRumors how wonderful Waytools is. Point me to their blog and I'll decide for myself.

-K
The fact remains that it is unpaid. There's no conflict. Or do you fault the WSJ, Daring Fireball, etc when they review products?

Macrumors has evolved over the years and is now in the position to review products relevant to their audience. I find it helpful as I can be introduced to products I might not have seen otherwise.

I think this specific story is relevant as well. A formerly reviewed product is now seeing significantly delays, so it's reasonable to have a story reporting why it has been delayed. And you can't fault the author for being limited in her sources. She talked to the Waytools people and got their explanation. She can't fly to Malaysia and check out the factory. I really doubt Macrumors has the budget for that.
 
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Kabeyun

macrumors 68040
Mar 27, 2004
3,057
5,735
Eastern USA
The fact remains that it is unpaid. There's no conflict. Or do you fault the WSJ, Daring Fireball, etc when they review products?

Why yes, if they were to shift from objective reporting of features to a love fest for the company, I most certainly would. But they're too professional to let biased reporting past the edit room.

And you really believe that conflict only exists when there's payment?? What a dangerous perspective. I guess judges who are friends with defendants need never recuse themselves.

She talked to the Waytools people and got their explanation.

A Journalism 101 class would be helpful here. It's more than:

CEO to reporter: We could have swept this under the rug, but we're too awesome for that!

Reporter to keyboard: They could have swept this under the rug, but they're too awesome for that!​

Need more? Look at this post, just above:

I'm really looking forward to trying this keyboard. I preordered pretty early. :)

This is a MacRumors staff member. So glad to know a cross section of MR is behind this thing.

-K
 
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annk

Administrator
Staff member
Apr 18, 2004
14,508
6,577
Somewhere over the rainbow
...

Need more? Look at this post, just above:



This is a MacRumors staff member. So glad to know a cross section of MR is behind this thing.

-K

Just like to make it clear:

  • I have no vested (= financial) interest in this site blogging/writing articles about new products, but as a member I'm glad when they do;
  • I have no instructions to like or not like any articles that are written;
  • I AM very interested in new gadgets that are released, and am genuinely interested in and looking forward to this particular product;
  • As a member, I'm glad an update was posted about this product, given the production problems;
  • I am first and foremost a member - my role as administrator is secondary.
Just in case anyone wonders, since the issue of this type of article comes up continually. My administrator role here has nothing to do with my interest in this product.
 
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mwhetnall

macrumors member
Jun 24, 2015
36
12
I preordered this thing on 17 Jan. I find it vexing that I wrote to WayTools in May to ask what was up and why I was still waiting and I didn't get 1/10th the amount of explainaition that was provided here. I personally don't care if they are a large or small company - I just care about the end product as well as being kept informed, and at $99 I had to make the effort just to get an update. Despite what anyone says this is ridiculous for a company selling a product that I'm hoping isn't just another overpriced gimmick in a sea of products that are priced more than they should be simply because of they are accessories for Apple products. I am still interested (somehow), but my early enthusiasm is gone, replaced with bitter doubt and the knowledge that if this thing isn't AMAZING I'm returning it instantly. I fully understand how hard it is to design something new and to make the effort to get it right as opposed to rushing a garbage product is commendable, perhaps "Apple-esque", but at least keep your customers informed. If I had received an email or two with updates that might've been nice, or even had the information from this article presented to me I might have had admiration for the company instead of bitter disdain.
 
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