Special Update: Specs, Production Schedule & GIFS!
Hello Everybody! I thought it was time for an update straight from me, Martin. Since my girlfriend has warned me not to write another dry and lengthy update and bore everybody to death I had Jordi edit it, but even that didn’t suffice. So be warned;)
The Name Game
Let us first start with an announcement: Ever since we ditched the P-L-A-Y buttons for A-B-X-Y, PLAY was essentially gone from our product ( we wanted to keep David happy ;) ). Since project PhoneJoy PLAY has been our first fully self-designed game controller as well we have decided to simplify everything and do everyone a favour by renaming the product to merely PhoneJoy. So there's no more PhoneJoy PLAY: we will, from now on, just call it PhoneJoy.
Anyways, it’s August and I know a lot of you are getting more and more impatient to receive your PhoneJoy.
The last few updates by Jordi and Mike have documented some of the recent developments we have been going through during the last few months from hard- & software to website and team changes. All put together it is all finally taking shape, which is why I am writing this important update.
We are happy to announce that the hardware development has entered it’s final stage: we are going through a last PCB revision, the firmware version has reached a solid beta status, and the last mold changes are being done at the moment. The overall hardware development will be finished in about four weeks time.
At the same time, we have been rather unsatisfied with Apple's MFi certification process. We had been for nine weeks in their rather opaque reviewing process. Nobody was able to tell us what had been going on.
Well, last week, we finally managed to get through to the MFi licensing department and it turned out that our credit review had gotten lost. After they finally had located it, we merely had been told that Coface had given us the same score as in January ("high risk") and that it would be too low for us to pass.
With that said, we’d be still welcome to challenge the score by sending Coface our balance sheet and profit/loss statement. Even Though we sent them our financial records, we're not 100% confident they will revise our score significantly. Since we are just a start-up and not exactly making black numbers...
You can imagine how disappointed we are that Apple excludes startups from developing licensed hardware accessories for their products. But it’s their walled garden, so we can only play by their rules unfortunately. :-/
Since we are still deciding on a manufacturing site, we have been talking to a number of manufacturers that do have a MFi manufacturing license. We will now explore the option that we could potentially co-develop a MFi PhoneJoy version with one of them. We are not sure whether this will be a possibility given Apple’s NDA that all MFi licensees have to sign. But we won’t give up on this quite yet. There just has to be a way for us.
With that said, our development is concluding during the next couple of weeks and we have reached a point where we cannot wait up for Apple any longer without further delaying the project. So last week when Dale went through the last PCB revision we decided that we will need to make two versions. One that is mainly geared towards Android & Windows users and one later for Apple iOS & Mac users.
Let me explain why:
1) Development time. For MFi we will most likely need to use a proprietary protocol from Apple, which may take several weeks of modification on the side of our Bluetooth manufacturer, and some integration lead time for Dale’s micro controller.
2) What Bluetooth module? Right now, without MFi we can’t even tell whether it’s based on Bluetooth 2.1/Classic or 4.0/Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).
3) Certification Risk. From what we know, even after we have a MFi Development License, they would still need to approve our product: Chances are we may not meet 100 percent of their hardware specs, our packaging may not be suitable, or they may not want to allow us cross-platform compatibility.
In any case, all this may lead to further delays as further changes would need to be made. Had we become quickly certified, we would know all these things now, but we do not and therefore we have decided to first make one version that uses Bluetooth 2.1/Classic and is geared towards Android and Windows.
Why Bluetooth 2.1 and not Bluetooth 3.0 or BLE?
Easy: BLE is only now officially being supported with Android 4.3 and looking at Androids track record, it will probably take a year before it gets a viable market share. Until now each manufacturer from Samsung, LG to HTC came up with their own different SDKs. In the end there are not really any mass-market BLE devices available for Android yet. Even our Pebbles, which in theory are capable of BLE, only use Bluetooth 2.1/Classic at the moment. Moreover Bluetooth 2.1/Classic will allow us easy deployment of the HID protocol (HID over BLE GATT, is still relatively new and mostly used for Keyboards), which is now being used by most game developers on Android and Windows. Also, we had our fair share of bad experience with Bluetooth 3.0. Most BT 3.0 modules are based on a Broadcom chipset which was designed for Keyboards, hence latency had been a big issue with these. In the end Bluetooth 2.1 ended up being the safest choice for us to deliver a great product.
Final Hardware Specs & Features
Now, since we have decided on our module and have nearly concluded with the development, PhoneJoy's specs are now pretty much set in stone. Please bear with me, as this will get a little technical now.
Buttons: There's little change here. We have 4x shoulder buttons (out which two technically function as analog buttons). 4x action buttons (A-B-X-Y), START, BACK, two analog nubs (with 256 steps of sensitivity), an off/on switch and a menu switch (formerly a switch for switching between the two Bluetooth modules). The menu switch will likely be freely configurable. But by default it will likely act to open up a quick launcher to open a popup with the latest three~five games.
EasySlider: The slider mechanism had been improved back in April/May. It now looks much more integrated with the controller design. It features now 12 instead of 4 steel springs, making it now nearly twice as sturdy and strong. Its length had been slightly extended to 155mm from 153mm, so that it can now fit the Galaxy Note II (and potentially III) more easily.
Profiles/Modes: This is probably the most interesting bit. We had a lot of ideas, and they couldn't be really accomplished with the HID profile (as HID is a pre-defined protocol that doesn't allow for much of any customisation and it also doesn’t allow data to be sent from our app to PhoneJoy). Therefore, we opted for including a Serial Port Profile (SPP) on top of the existing HID Mouse/Gamepad/Keyboard modes. SPP will allow us two things. First of all it will allow for our own PhoneJoy mode that game developers could implement. A dedicated PhoneJoy mode would allow for additional features that standard HID does not allow for such as making all buttons analog or the implementation of vibration feedback for future PhoneJoy controllers.
Input Method Fragmentation
Most importantly however SPP will allow us to implement a syncing function and thus the implementation of different gamepad descriptors and keyboard profiles right to PhoneJoy’s firmware. This means that our game controller can adapt very easily to different environments. Android is very fragmented when it comes to support of physical game controllers, that is because there is no official standard but instead a lot of different implementations. Some games use Keyboard key codes, some use HID Gamepad controls and some have implemented a game controller own proprietary standard.
Now, we will not be able to emulate someone’s private proprietary standard. Yet even for Keyboard key codes there are half a dozen of variations and many games do not allow for in-game remapping. Even HID gamepad controls have not been standardised. NVIDIA promotes their own HID game controller descriptor, which slightly differs from what is used on computers and OUYA uses something different as well. Other game developers such as Rockstar use their own HID gamepad descriptor for GTA as well.
All this is causing trouble for conventional game controllers that implement one HID gamepad and one HID keyboard profile, making them often not work with all of the games out there. Well, with the PhoneJoy Sync feature, we will be able to offer multiple Gamepad HID descriptor profiles (Tegra, OUYA, etc), multiple profiles for Keyboard controls, plus the possibility to create one’s own profiles. PhoneJoy will be able to save them in its microcontroller (MCU) and via the PhoneJoy app you will be able to either manually switch them or to have our app automatically apply default configuration profiles that it will fetch from our database.
Moreover, when you look at conventional game controllers you will see that they usually either use a physical switch or a button combination to switch between their modes (if they even have different modes that is). We believe this is not a very user friendly way to handle this. Similar to profiles you will be able to switch modes with our Android app either manually or automatically.
So there is no switches, IME’s, difficult setup processes etc!
On the technical side this only works because SPP will always be active even when HID is running. All in all we believe this functionality aside of the EasySlider mechanism and a native app will be key to make PhoneJoy successful on the market. Dale is still working out the SPP portion of the controller. But we should be able to show off this function within the next two to three weeks.
So let me roundup the different modes there will be:
- The proprietary PhoneJoy mode
- The Keyboard & Mouse combo mode (HID)
- The HID gamepad mode
- The iOS iCade mode (for some classic games)
- And the Data Sync via SPP that will provides smooth switching between them at all times.
LEDs: PhoneJoy will come with three LEDs.
We have two LEDs on the top of PhoneJoy, very close to the microUSB charging port. The first LED will indicate PhoneJoy’s charging state (amber/green). The second will give out a critical battery level warning (red).
The third LED, the Controller Status LED is the most visible and most important LED of the three of them. It's actually a full RGB LED which means it can basically take on any color tone we want to. We have chosen to display five different colour tones.
- PhoneJoy mode (green colour)
- Navigation mode (yellow colour)
- HID gamepad mode (blue colour)
- iCade mode (red colour)
- Sytem/Syncing mode (white colour)
Android ICS (4.0) Or Newer Required
Since the device will mainly facilitate the use of HID it will only work with Android Honeycomb (3.1) or newer devices. At the moment the only between 3.1 and 4.0 is 3.2 but since 3.2 only runs on approximately 0.1% of the devices and PhoneJoy is mainly for phones we have decided to make our Android app require at least Android 4.0 (ICS). This will allow us to comply with Google’s Android design guidelines and guaranteeing an app that works smoothly and behaves just like you’re used to.
Next Steps & Production Schedule
So what does all of this mean for the schedule of the project? Below i’ve set out the milestones until the launch:
- Packaging → Being finalised. We are expecting a structural sample within the next two weeks. Our target is to have it finished by mid-September.
- Adapters → We have made some slight design changes to the accessories and tooling will be started in the last week of August. Tooling will take until the end of September.
- Moulds → About 2 weeks left for slider (end of August). About 3 weeks left for buttons (second week of September). We can then view samples and try different colours.
- Steel Tools → Once the slider parts are finished, we can verify the size of the slider parts (The steel plates need to fit absolutely perfect to ensure a strong and durable slider.) Once that's done we can make the stamp tools to press the steel plates of PhoneJoy. (takes about 2 weeks)
- Choice of Assembly Factory → We have visited a few factories, and we have narrowed it down to a preselection who are now preparing a quote. In early September we will decide on the final manufacturing site.
- Pre-screening Certification & Fitness for Use Test → This will be done as soon as the steel parts have been finalised and we can assemble the final product. Our target is to do the the fitness for use testing prior to the pilot run. If PhoneJoy survives the fitness for use testing. We can proceed with the pre-screening of PhoneJoy. The pre-screening essentially includes the most essential tests for a CE/FCC certification. Should we pass those we will most likely not be required to make any more changes to the product.
- Pilot Run in September & Assembly Line setup → Once the fitness for use test has been passed we can run a pilot run of a very small batch production during the end of September (current estimate). Prior to that Alex and Dale will draw and write down all assembly steps for the assembly line workers.
- Testing Equipment → During the pilot run we will need to develop testing fixtures that will automate much of the testing of the circuit boards functionality and final product.
- CE/FCC Certification → Once the pre-screening, fitness for use testing, packaging, and accessories have been finished. The complete retail-ready product can be sent to SGS fording the complete run of tests for CE and FCC. This is expected to last for two weeks. Once it’s cleared we are allowed to mail PhoneJoy units to you guys.
- Start of Mass-Production → During and at the end of the pilot run we will be able to examine, review and adjust the procedures. If everything’s been running smooth we expect to start the production in early-mid October. However, this is subject to passing the pre-screening and fitness for use test and the manufacturer’s own schedule.
- Shipping → This will depend on the assembly time and schedule. But our plan is to produce small batches and start distributing them in bi-weekly intervals, which means that we would be able to ship first units to backers during the end of October.
So what does the MFi trouble means for our iOS backers?
Because we want to give you backers the choice (even though it apparently makes you unhappy...) you can choose if you want the Android version or the iOS version. But like we said before, even though we are determined to get a MFi license, we are not sure when and if we will get it. You can change your preference at any moment until September 30th. We’ve created a ---> FORM <--- which allows you to choose which versions of the controller you want. Please make sure you leave the E-mail address associated with your Kickstarter or PayPal account!
Ow and if you need some help choosing: there is a TED video for that too ;) But remember: whatever you choose is cool, because YOU'RE cool...
-Martin, Jordi & The PhoneJoy Team
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<LEVEL 9> HIPSTER - PhoneJoy™ Play Limited Airbrush Edition. Hand assembled by us, and airbrushed by a local airbrush artist, slider comes with special plating and design! Only 25 of these will ever be made! Includes the Kickstarter Limited edition box and option to have backer name airbrushed or engraved plus the PhoneJoy Play carry bag.Estimated delivery:Add $15 USD to ship outside the US
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<LEVEL 11> EXECUTIVE BACKER - You love us! So much that you want to come to the urban jungle of Hong Kong to meet us in person. You'll be invited to the PhoneJoy office in March in Hong Kong. We will spend 3 days with you and give you look behind the scenes and tour with you our suppliers in Shenzhen where you can see where PhoneJoys are being made. The reward also comes with a standard PhoneJoy™ Play (Level#7) [shipped beforehand to you] as well as an airbrushed Play engraved with your name hand assembled by Alex (Level#9 or Level#10 apply), as well as the full merchandise package (Level#3 & #4) on top of all that. Includes local transport, visa for China and three nights in a three star hotel. Nightlife action, prolonged gaming sessions, massages and other perks with the PhoneJoy team guaranteed!Estimated delivery:
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