July 2020 Development Blog
Welcome to our third DEV (Development) Blog. Our goal with these is to keep you informed on what the product development team is doing here at Go Connect. I know you are excited to see the line of products that we will began releasing later this year. We are too.
Hundreds of hours a week go into developing products like these. While we can’t get too deep into the details, it will give you some insight into what we are doing. You’ll see a development blog at least once a month but likely more frequently as we make more progress.
One huge bit of news is the announcements of our two products. While we’ve planned from the beginning to release two products, it wasn’t until recently we decided to accelerate the progress on the cellular version of the Go Connect. This has absolutely been in response to customer interest and macro economic editions.
Go Travel Pro
The Go Travel Pro is our top of the line product. It includes all of our best software features plus it will have a full cellular support. While we are not ready to release all of the details just yet, you can learn more by checking out our Travel Hotspot with Cellular page.
The Go Travel is our top of the line product, but without built in cellular. So if you are lookign for something that makes Travel WiFi significantly better and can work with your existing hotspot (phone or standalone). Go Travel is focused on being a better travel router than what exists on the market.
What Our Teams Are Working On
Hardware (Device) Engineering
Our product team has hinted for a while that we were likely to include a cellular chip. In fact, we’ve known since the initial launch that cellular would make it into the product line at some point early in the company’s life. With COVID-19 changing travel habits we’ve quickly realized that we needed to ensure cellular was available right at product launch.
Much of July has been spent by the hardware team preparing our designs for implementation of cellular. While we’re still working through a few modules we have narrowed down the list to a handful. We are due to begin live testing with cellular as part of our expanded Alpha test.
We are still looking into the possibility of including a 5G chip. However, we are also considering 4G only. We’d really like to include a 5G option in the product release. However, there are some substantial limitations to 5G and we have to weigh those against the complexity and cost of the product.
Why wouldn’t we just want the latest and greatest? A few reasons
- Limited availability of 5G thru the end of 2021
- Poor indoor performance
- More carrier in incompatibility (at least compared to 4G)
- More unknowns regarding future data caps and pricing
We expect to have some more details available on which direction we go and our results from engineering for our next development blog, so stay tuned! And if you are interested in seeing a 5G chip, please, go tell the business team!
An area our engineering team has been working on is to perfect our enclosure design. We love the look, but when it comes to product design there are a lot of details to consider as we finalize things.
First, as we have been testing and attempting to finalize the PCB (printer computer board) we will be using for the product, there are subtleties to the size, spacing and even heat management of the design. Also, with the addition of the cellular chip there are additional enclosure considerations.
We are in the process of getting our revised initial case designs updated. Those will then go off to be manufactured in small scale. Our goal is to include it with our expanded Alpha testing.
One thing we do know is that based on our Alpha testing there will likely be a few more revisions. So don’t expect to hear us talk about final enclosure design until after the Alpha is completely finished.
Alpha Testing Support
Our Alpha testing kicked off last month and we’ve nearly completed the first round of testing. If you didn’t read in our previous dev blog about it, we’ve had an opportunity to put the Go Connect devices in the hands of many real world users who are not members of the Go Team. They took it to hotels, Airbnbs, coffee shops, restaurants and more.
We got some great feedback. We were really happy with the results of the heat fixes we implemented based on our early testing. We’ve also seen a big uptick in reliability.
We are still trying to tweak the performance. Travel WiFi will never have the same performance considerations home internet will so it’s important to us to ensure we perform well without compromising reliability. Performance can mean a lot of things. For some users its a Speedtest, others its range. We have to consider all of these, while not losing site of our mission to make sure it works more than it has stats. Although as engineers, we do love stats.
Software (App) Engineering
As of our last update our software teams were mostly in support mode while turning their attention to feature development. It’s paid off. As part of our expanded Alpha testing we’ve implemented a number of feature enhancements.
We’ve spent a lot of time on our security solution. Our technical teams were tasked with not creating just another VPN – there are plenty of those. What we really wanted to focus on is what VPN provides (security) and how can we make it better. There are a number of downsides to most VPN implementations – including performance and some limitations. If we were going to make travel WiFi better it couldn’t come with a lot of limitations.
What our technical team is doing is taking a fresh look at VPN. When it adds value, when its gets in the way, and how we can ensure it secures without needlessly impacting functionality.
It started with our test last month of all of the streaming services. A number of them do not work with most VPN services. Rather than making users individually exclude services, how could we protect sensitive information (like passwords) without popups and messages from content providers thinking the user was trying to circumvent a rule.
We’ll be sharing more details soon but we’re really excited for what we have put together. We also expect to learn even more as we continue our live user testing.
There is so much we want to say about the work we’ve done and continue to do around our ability to improve Traffic on WiFi. It’s been a driver of our technical teams from the early foundation of the product. And we’ve seen some amazing results. It’s really impressive what you can do client side to improve mediocre to bad WiFi into surprisingly good.
While we don’t want to say too much too soon, lets just say we’re really excited for when we can share some of the details. We feel nobody in the industry is putting this kind of effort into managing how well WiFi works.
Only minor software fixes from the Alpha for our mobile app. We still see a few unexpected API errors. However, they don’t impact the functionality of the app. So we will continue to work on resolving those. We do expect to get back into feature development soon as there are some updates we’ll need to support from the Traffic Management and Security side.
App Center Woes
In addition to these updates we’ve rediscovered our love and hate relationship with Apple pre-release app distribution. While it is a little more streamlined than with Androids, it also is more cumbersome because of the added security.
To support our app release efforts we’ve been using App Center to manage devices and distributions. However, recently App Center has begun taking DAYS (literally) to sign a new app release when a new Alpha user signs up. This has become completely unbearable. Our Alpha testers are not part of the Go team and many are not even technical so signing errors are not something they understand.
Seems this has been an off again on again problem with App Center. Thankfully they resolved the problem where the app is available now within a matter of minutes. Still, something we will need to keep an eye on.
Of course, none of this will matter once we go live since we only need App Center to support Alpha and Beta users.
We’d love your feedback on the features we implement for the final version. If you are interested in sharing your thoughts, send us a note with the features you’d like to see. You can submit feature thoughts here.
It’s hard to believe July is almost over. We’re really excited with what we’ve accomplished and have in the works, but there is still plenty left to do before we complete our Alpha testing. We hope to complete that process by the next DEV update. From the expanded Alpha test we will move towards final implementations.
Our goal would be to complete the implementation of any feedback from Alpha plus any launch features for our Beta test. While even after the Beta we expect to continue to plan feature enhancements through the life of the products, we are coming close to our line in the sand. In fact, baring shocking learning from our beta or expanded Alpha we mostly know what we expect those features to be.
As you may have seen in our product roadmap – we are not just building a hardware device here. We are investing significant effort into the user experience and features with software. This gives us a lot of opportunity to enhance the product without changing the hardware. That means new features as we develop and refine our product, and likely software releases with enhanced features after we launch the physical hardware.