Updated 14/04/2016 after feedback from the designers and some more BLYNK development
As of a few weeks ago, one of the contenders for the mobile IOT crown, Blynk, has gone properly commercial. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing – but lets take a look at this in detail.
A couple of pet peeves with Blynk were lack of multiple pages per project and the buttons – which could only say ON or OFF which was a problem if you want them to do UP and DOWN or PAUSE and PLAY etc etc…BUT I’m happy to say this has now all been fixed – with up to four pages per project and full control over button text - also the descriptions above buttons has always appeared to be unnecessarily limited in length. again – that limitation has now been fixed for Android and as far as I’m aware, IOS. Blynk has also added drop-down selection menus – and TABS (for multiple pages per project up to 4).
And how does this cost? Well I assume my setup is fairly standard, on the left you see a number of buttons – 8 data display and 4 LEDS, at the bottom a temperature display. On the right you see one of my two thermostat controls with 10 sliders for a total of 20 sliders. That is for the house and I need to replicate that for the shed so several pages of controls will be needed in the end and that’s for a small house and office – those with big houses may have much greater requirements. Since writing this however those dropdown menus may well replace the sliders (ie 2 sliders and a drop down menu to select the time slot is all I expect I’ll need).
On top of that there are a number of RGB controls needed but right now the ZERGBRA takes up way too much screen space – I’m hoping that will shrink in future – one idea would be an on-off control with a long-press to bring up an RGB or better an HSV control.
So the way this will work is that you need to “top up” the unit with energy (for which you pay) as you want more controls – Imperihome fby comparison costs a few dollars one off payment.
So let’s look at replicating what I have now – 1,000 points costs a dollar, 5,000 points costs 4 dollars etc. and there is a cost per widget – so by my reckoning to replicate what i have now will cost… 9 buttons at 200 points-1800 points, 4 of the value displays at 200 points = 800, 3 LEDs at 100=300, a history graph at 900 and 20 sliders at 200=4,000 points.
In total then just to replicate what I have now and that does not include any lighting controls or anything else comes to 7,800 points. I’ll want to replicate the thermostat for my office, so add maybe 5000 points and then there’s lighting and some controls I’m working on now – I’m thinking maybe 15,000 points without any more graphs… That comes to well over $10 (you can buy 13000 points at $9.99 and the next step up is 28,000 points at $19.99) – but an important point here – if you DELETE widgets you now get your points refunded – such is the power of the consumer as BLYNK responded to our gripes, it was not always going to be this way. I also think with the new controls I can reduce the number of widgets required substantially.
I had a fear that there might be some “draining” of the energy over time but apparently that is NOT the case so we are now looking at one off charges to get more widgets. On the OTHER hand – I seem to be sitting on some 9000 points which should be more than enough for all but the more ambitious projects. And I was concerned about the cost of those history graphs – if it were to pay for their servers that would be one thing but this is hosted on my own Raspberry Pi – on the other hand they do handle 4 inputs per graph so most installations presumably would only need the one graph.
Let’s compare for a second with Imperihome. Around $5 or so (I’m in the UK but let’s keep it all in dollars for simplicity) for the App and that’s it – on the other hand after 2 emails and a couple of weeks I’ve had zero response from them and their App, complex as it is – is not as pretty as Blynk and misses some simple basics like the LEDs and uncommitted buttons.
With Imperihome you can have as many history graphs as you like – in fact as much of everything as you like – but if you’re using Node-Red you have to handle this yourself – in Blynk it is built into the server software they give away for free if you don’t want to use their cloud. In the light of the new charges for Blynk I asked Imperihome what their timescales are for implementing these features – no response weeks later.
I think I’m happy to pay for Blynk widgets as needed – assuming that fixes are regular (right now they are very regular) and new new widgets appear regularly… There are several apps out there but currently one could argue that Blynk is the best looking and thanks to third parties (work which was done for free) there’s good, reliable Node-Red support for Blynk… but then there’s good support for node-red-contrib-ui – all THAT needs is a major visual facelift.
Whatever system I end up using will control 2 lots of heating (3 eventually as I have the house – my home office which is separate and our place in Spain), lights including RGB lights and so much more. I’ve not yet checked if I can put this on multiple devices without paying extra – I hope so.
According to Blynk Bluetooth is next. Not sure I see the urgency for Bluetooth as that is limited range – but what do I know.
Blynk development team have responded to gripes here, elsewhere and on the App store – by increasing the number of points we get, returning 100% points for erased widgets and NOT charging points for new empty projects AND the new tabs cost zero points as well which is a good thing – that is good progress and nice to see they are listening to users. I still think the cost per item for things like graphs could be reduced – but the changes of the last couple of weeks are definitely an improvement and at this point I’m prepared to put more work into this and “see how it goes”. I’m off to Spain in a matter of days and I’ve a lot of work there to update the controls for my various colour LED lighting arrangements.
There are now two types of value panels – each in two sizes the original and a larger one (very welcome) – one type of panel is straightforward and best suited for those of us in control of our data – the second allows a macro replacement so if you can only output numbers you can add for example “C” to the end for degrees C etc.
As for the programmable drop down menu – which is great – I’ve populated it with colours for one of my RGB displays which means colour control is now small enough to fit 16 of them on a page – don’t laugh – I’m heading in that direction.
Thoughts? New readers please note, some of the comments below were made before the current round of improvements.