Saturday, April 02, 2016

Another Kickstarter Facepalm

In my ongoing newfound desire to share my unrequested opinions on various crowdfunding projects, I bring to you today another entry in the supposed "smart" products. Now, unlike my last screed, this device actually fits the more accepted definition of "smart;" it has sensors, adds functionality to address a problem, and enhances the use of existing solutions. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Bluejay, the worlds' "first" smart mount.

Now, upon first glance, this gadget seems to be a winner. Beautifully engineered out of aluminum and carbon fiber, clearly designed with an attention to upgrade the ungainly other solutions, and a plethora of functionality, the Bluejay offers to make the mount for your smartphone in your car far more advanced. There's a clear focus on balancing impressive design with technological wizardry, no wonder it made it's funding goals.

What does it do? Well, in addition to offering mounting options on the windshield, dashboard, or vent, it works with it's dedicated app to offer you the ability to locate your car in a crowded parking lot, an optimized user interface to make it easier/safer to use your phone when driving, a turn by turn GPS, driving stats, integration with IFTT, and more. Pretty cool, right?

Wrong. Let me count the ways.

First, the price. This lovingly crafted piece of tech costs just under a Benjamin. Ok, you can argue that's pretty good for all that, but wait.

The ability to find your car in a crowded parking lot sounds like a great idea, right? Up until you realize that Google Now (built in every Android phone, and available for iPhones) automatically stores where you parked, and can guide you back to your car. Cost? $0.

How about that optimized interface? Well, despite the fact that the promotional video for the Bluejay shows how much easier it is to send a text message while driving (illegal, by the way), it also is a problem that is easily solved in a far better fashion by better apps, like AutoMate for Android. And since Bluejay accomplishes this task with an app rather than something specific to the mount, it's inferior to the other options. Not to mention that Siri, Cortana, and Google Now all offer the ability to send messages hands free or place calls with voice, a far safer option. Oh, yes, cost? $0.

How about turn by turn GPS? Again, Bluejay does this with an app, and there are far, far, far better options. Waze is my personal favorite, with crowdsourced RT traffic and police detection, but Google Maps, or even Apple Maps, can do this far better, and have far more resources to make improvements. Cost: Zip.

Diving stats: take a look at the alternatives. Metromile offers you a "Fitbit for your car" that does all of this, as well as notifying of fuel, maintenance and errors; they give it to you free with their per-mile car insurance. There are DIY versions that plug into your ODB port with free apps to give you the stats, or you can be a big spender and spring for Automatic, which is stats overload and real needed car functionality. Granted, no aluminum/carbon fiber mount for your phone, but the same price.

And lastly, the mount itself. While undeniably beautiful, it is a steep premium to pay for minimal design, yet strongly functional, car mounts on the market today. Got an old CD player in your car? For $11, you can turn it into a magnetic mount to suspend your phone in midair at the perfect angle. At the other extreme is ProClip, who will gladly sell you the highest quality, American made, mounting solution for your specific phone, complete with power. I've owned two of them, and amazed at the quality; I'm now tempted by their iOAuto Pro magnetic mount, and for half the price of the BlueJay.

Sadly, while Bluejay is clearly beautiful, it's value is greatly inflated, and yet it achieved it's funding goal. Another case of Kickstarter-fueled hype, alas. Backers beware!

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