An honest report of usability


#1

So I purchased two GoTenna Meshs, one each for my wife and I, about a month ago. After testing them out in various scenarios they are basically unusable in any realistic situation I can think of.

We both have Google Pixels on the latest version of Android, and the app is incredibly frustrating. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the app stay connected to the GoTenna for more than an hour or two in standby without disconnecting. Worse yet, there is no feedback that this has happened unless you notice the blinking on the GoTenna unit.

Reconnecting after this has happened is also a source of frustration. Sometimes the app will immediately reconnect to the GoTenna once opened. Sometimes I need to leave the app open for about 30 seconds before it reconnects. Sometimes it doesn’t reconnect at all until the GoTenna is powered down and back on again. I’ve already had to clear the app’s data once to get it to pair with my GoTenna again when it got really stuck.

I suspect that this is a GoTenna app specific problem, as several other apps on my phone that rely on BLE communications work flawlessly. My smart watch and some Bluetooth lost item trackers paired to my phone never have these types of issues.

At this point, we don’t bother bringing them with us any more. If we have to pull out our phones every hour to wake the app up, spend a minute pairing it, and check our messages, what is the point? In the current state, they function more like old-school voicemail than a messaging app.


#2

There are known issues with Android not staying connected. On my Moto Z, I turned off battery optimization for the goTenna app and mine has been connected continuously for two days now.

Reportedly, this will be fixed in the upcoming 5.0 release.

The biggest barrier to adoption that I’ve found is convincing people to be bothered to use it. You’d think a malfunctioning cell tower would be enough persuasion, but apparently not.


#3

One of the first things I did was disable battery optimization for the Bluetooth app, Bluetooth MIDI Service, and GoTenna. Doesn’t seem to have had any effect at all.

I think we’d really get a lot of use out of these in areas with questionable service if it was truly as simple as turning it on and waiting for messages to pop up. In its current state we basically get about an hour of useful push messaging, then after that it’s a cumbersome process to connect to the GoTenna and check for cached messages periodically.


#4

Right now the Bluetooth transceiver in the GoTenna resets itself every hour or so. There are a series of bugs in the Android Gotenna SDK (which I imagine the official app uses as well) that when combined with hourly-ish reset will render the GoTenna disconnected without extra user interaction (reset of app, phone, Gotenna, or some combination).

There is a firmware update coming out soon that will address the random reset issue, and it sounds like the Android SDK will be getting an update around the same time to address the bugs in addition to some new features.

I worked around the problems above in the app my company makes, but it took weeks of work, and some fairly aggressive re-enabling of the Bluetooth adapter on the phone. Before I worked around the issues I had the same experience. I had dumped a bunch of time into supporting the GoTenna only to find that the connection wasn’t stable enough to rely on for a group of users. Someone would inevitably be disconnected, and after someone in the group had to reboot their phone every 30 minutes or so the GoTenna were quickly put into a bag until I had more time to figure out why they were working so poorly.


#5

Lately, especially today, out of three different communication methods (call, SMS, goTenna), the goTenna is the one that successfully gets the message through. Made a phone call before leaving work, never received on the other end. Earlier today, someone sent me a text message, never got it. A relative pinged me on the goTenna as they drove past my work and we were able to continue a conversation for the next minute or so before they rode out of range, and there is a hill between my office and the road. Only one message required relaying through my carTenna.


#6

@StickModern I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing these issues while using the goTenna. I can certainly see how that would be frustrating.

I am one of the Android Developers that works on the goTenna Android app, so perhaps I can add some extra clarification. As some others have mentioned in this thread already, there is indeed an issue on the goTenna device itself where, due to some firmware issues, the Bluetooth ends up disconnecting after about an hour of use, and it become difficult to re-connect to. The mobile app does not always handle this situation as gracefully as it could either due to some issues on the app side as well.

We have been working very hard over the past few months to provide an updated version of the app that solves these issues, along with a firmware update that will fix the issue on the goTenna itself. We are in the final testing phases of this new version of the app right now, which means it could be up on the PlayStore within the next week or so, barring any last minute issues.

It would be great if, when we release the updated version of the app, you could give it another chance, try it out, and let us know how it compares to before.


#7

@tcolligan I just tried to get a friend set up who’s not terribly comfortable with technology. She said her Pixel 1 already had bluetooth issues but I was surprised I couldn’t get it to connect at all. I understand that the Android platform is tricky but I’m surprised that the Google-branded one apparently is so quirky.

Thanks for all that you do on Android; I’m thinking of deploying cheaper older phones “pre-paired” for goTenna Meshes for earthquake preparedness since people can’t download apps after the Internet goes down.


#8

@chrispmorgan That is somewhat surprising, we have gotten the Pixel 1 device to pair in the past. One weird thing about certain Android devices, is that if you have Location Services (GPS) turned off, then the app will be unable to pair over Bluetooth. This is mostly due to location permissions needing to be enabled on 6.0+ devices in-order for apps to be able to do BLE scans.

To most people this sounds bizarre, but it is essentially because if I have BLE beacons placed in certain areas, and I have an app that connects to them, I can use the beacons to triangulate your actual gps position. Not that goTenna does that, but Android is trying to protect against this with that requirement, which was added in 6.0. In addition, some Android devices are rather lax with this requirement, only requiring the app to have the location permissions enable, while others actually require location services to be currently active. If all the requirements are not met, then the BLE scan can silently fail.

So the first thing I would check is to make sure that the app has location permissions active, and that location services are actually turned on when you try to pair.

If you are still stuck trying to pair in onboarding, a “Having trouble?” screen should show up after 20 seconds, which has a “Report an Issue” button. You can tap that to send us an email, which will have some logs automatically attached to help us better diagnose what is going on. Or you can reach out to support@gotenna.com directly for troubleshooting help.

Another fun note, from our own testing, Samsung phones and Google phones tend to be the most quirky with regards to BLE pairing for various reasons. As an Android Developer, I have encountered enough Samsung specific issues over the years to get to the point where I have sworn off ever purchasing a Samsung device for my own personal use :slight_smile:

Having cheap pre-paired phones ready with the app already installed sounds like a nice idea!


#9

That explains the troubles I had when testing with my Motorola Photon (yes, I’ve built up a nice inventory of phones, mostly pre-owned). I was attempting to use the goTenna app with no location services enabled and it refused to pair.

Who would’ve thought that Bluetooth needs location?


#10

@tcolligan we’ve actually had numerous issues with my wife’s Pixel v1 phone to pair with gotenna with the original firmware and app version. I have the Pixel XL v1 and had none of the issues she has had.

That said the beta worked much better so hopefully when that is released the whole gotenna experience will improve significantly.


#11

This is good to know. As an iPhone user, I never imagined that this problem existed for Android phones. I am actually going to be making a hike up Mount Whitney this August with a couple of Android users, and will take my Gotennas to keep in touch since we will likely get separated. Maybe I should also give my partners old iPhones to use with the Gotennas if this problem isn’t corrected by then.


#12

I have had the same issue with my Google Pixel 2 and Moto G5 Plus.

I have also had the problem on iPhones if the app isn’t in the foreground - but not as many problems as with my Android phones.

I look forward to any updates to improve the functionality of GoTennas.

Even with these problems I just took 4 GoTenna’s to a Boy Scout camp and they were very helpful!


#13

Request for Boy Scouts meshing with goTenna photos :wink:


#14

I have a Google Pixel 3 XL and I have also experienced this disconnect problem. However, after a few issues yesterday, it then stayed connected for the day. I’ll be continuing to try using it to see if it is behaving more consistently.


#15

If you see any more issues or just have some use questions please feel free to email us at support@gotenna.com

Thanks!