As we hope you’re all aware of by now, the Almond+ has been delayed due to a wide range of hardware and software changes. We know many of you are frustrated by this fact, but we also know that most of you want a product that you won’t have to replace after a year due to lacking hardware.
The Almond+ is a unique product in many ways and we’re sure that is the reason why you backed this project in the first place. As such, we want it to be a product that lives up to the expectations from our backers. That said, we have a plan and things are progressing, albeit not quite as quickly as we’d hoped and this update will explain where we are today and what the plan is moving forward.
As promised, below you’ll find pictures of the “new” Almond+ and as you can see from the pictures, it’s grown a little bit compared to our original design. There are several reasons for the change in size, but the two main reasons are an increased components count which required a slightly different PCB and improved Wi-Fi performance by being able to position the antennas better.
If you look carefully, you’ll also notice that the Almond+ has gained a larger 3.5-inch screen. We felt the 2.8-inch screen that we initially planned to use would get a little lost considering the larger size of the Almond+ now and as such we decided to go for a 3.5-inch model. As an added bonus, the new screen also has a higher resolution of 480x320 pixels vs. 320x240 pixels of the 2.8-inch screen. This means that you’re getting nearly twice as many pixels which results in almost a 50 percent larger viewing area and a 15 percent higher pixel density. The end result of this is that it’ll be even easier to access the unique touch screen interface of the Almond+ and you’ll get a sharper looking display.
Moving to the back of the Almond+ you’ll also notice that we’ve re-designed the cooling. This is one of the parts that isn’t quite finished yet, but we’re hoping to be able to deliver what you see in the picture below. As we’ve moved quite a few components around, we’ve managed to fit a larger, but lower profile heatsink inside the Almond+. The reasons we decided to cover the heatsink was to provide both a sleeker design, but more important to prevent the heatsink from being touched, as it can get quite warm.
Looking at the ports, you’ll notice that we’ve swapped around the location of some of them. This is in part due to the addition of two USB 3.0 ports and part in due to the components changes that we’ve done.
Internally not much has changed from update #12 (sorry, backers only, but you can find the feature changes in the table below), so if you haven’t read it, we suggest you do so. We do have a lot of testing and tweaking to do still, but this is to be expected considering that this is the first iteration of a fairly complex design, but we’re confident that we can solve any issues that we might come across.
We’ve also designed a new accessory that will ship with the Almond+. As with the previous revision of the hardware, we’ll include a desk stand, but we’ve also made wall mounting a bit easier by supplying a wall mount bracket onto which the Almond+ clips on to. You’ll have the option to attach this to a wall either with an easy to remove double-adhesive tape or with screws.
Things are progressing on the software side and as you can see from the pictures, we’ve got the software up and running on the customized PCB. We still have a lot of work that needs to be done here though and this is where the bear’s share of our efforts will be going in over the next few months until we start shipping units. Our first goal is to get a working platform for our developer and beta backers; this will be feature complete beta software.
As far as software features goes, at launch, the Almond+ will feature OpenVPN server, hardware based QoS, DLNA, UPnP, Samba and FTP support. We will of course also deliver the same kind of functionality that we’re offering on the Almond today, so expect to see support for repeater/range extender, Wi-Fi access point and WWAN support.
We’re also working on ZigBee and Z-Wave integration and this is progressing smoothly. We have an early Alpha version of our mobile app up and running on both Android and iOS, as well as a working version of our optional cloud service. The UI is far from finalized here, but basic features like notifications and control of sensors/devices is working.
For those of you that aren’t so keen on using a cloud based service to control your Almond+ over the internet, there will be an option to control your home automation devices via the NutsOS web GUI and of course, the LCD on the Almond+. This way, all your sensor data will be limited to the Almond+ and will not be hitting the internet, but it will of course be possible to connect over VPN to your Almond+ to gain access to your sensors and devices.
Judging by the feedback both here on Kickstarter and from the survey that many of you replied to, Windows Phone support seems to be a highly requested feature. It’s not something we’re going to be able to deliver at launch, but it’s something we’re considering as a post launch addition, but we don’t have any timeframe on when this would be available.
Our next update will include screenshots of the NutsOS UI running on the Almond+ as we’re still tweaking it and we felt it’s a bit too early to share it in this update.
Some of you have voiced concerns that we’re listening too much to our backers with regards to what kind of features and functionality that should be added to the Almond+. As such we also want to announce that we’re at a feature freeze point and that no new features will be added until each and every one of you have received your Almond+. We do of course want the Almond+ to be as good of a product as possible, but there comes a time when you have to stop developing and start shipping a product.
As stated in update #12, due to the hardware improvements that we decided to do, we expected that the Almond+ would be about 3-4 months late. We know many of you are eager to get your hands on the product(s) you’ve backed and we fully understand that it’s frustrating to have to wait longer than expected on a product you have technically already paid for. As such we want to be frank with you when it comes to what we believe is a realistic timeframe for when we can deliver the Almond+ and sadly it looks like the very best we’ll be able to do in terms of delivery, will be at the very end of the four months delay.
In other words, we’re not expecting to be able to start shipping the Almond+ to our regular backers until the end of January 2014, with our Developer and Beta level backers getting their first unit and sensors come November. As you can see from the pictures, we have working hardware and software, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us. We hope to deliver a product that all of you will be proud to own and use on a daily basis and ultimately this is why we did the changes we did in the first place.
As this is a major update with a lot of information we thought we’d sum things up in slightly easier to digest bullet points below.
- PCB and enclosure design is mostly done
- First Almond+ PCB’s are back from the factory and are working
- Slightly larger physical size than originally planned, due to hardware improvements
- Some optimization still remains
- No "new" features will be added from this point on
- The Almond+ will ship with a 50% larger screen with twice the pixel count
- Two USB 3.0 ports will be included
- ZigBee and Z-Wave is working
Mobile apps for Android and iOS are in Alpha stage alongside our cloud service
- Production schedule updated
- Estimated shipping end of January 2014 unless we have unforeseen issues
One last thing, please make sure your email address is up to date so that we can contact you. Some of you have non functioning email addresses and in these cases, we won’t be able to get in touch with you once it’s time to ship your products. Also make sure you add email@example.com to your email whitelist so emails from us don’t get stuck in your spam filter.
The Almond+ Team