Kickstarter Darling Rocki Play – “Looking to revolutionize” music streaming – now adding iOS support

We reported on the CE week in New York earlier, while one company didn’t make the highlights, we certainly think it deserves a closer look given the recent announcement and buzz surrounding the company – ROCKI, which funded a Wi-Fi streaming device through Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is the place to be for startup companies in need of capital and has made many amazing products and projects possible. The platform often brings products to consumers ahead of time, examples are the Pebble smartwatch which raised over $10 million on Kickstarter or the iStick which we recently reported on.

ROCKI is one of those Kickstarter success stories as well. Here’s what it’s all about:

A small device which will turn your speakers into a Wi-Fi streaming setup. Basically you can plug in the ROCKI Play to your speakers, connect it to your phone and playlist and there you have it – Wi-Fi streaming your favorite songs.

Here is how they described the product during the Kickstater project:

“WHAT IS ROCKI?

Simply put, ROCKI is a Wifi Music Sound System 1. First, there’s the ROCK “PLAY” device: The ROCKI “PLAY” is a tiny device that once you plug it into your sound system (Hifi, Mini-compos, Powered speakers etc.), it turns it into a Wifi Sound System. You can also think of the ROCKI “PLAY” device as a Wifi receiver for your sound system that receives music via wifi and then plays it on your sound system. 2. Then, there’s the ROCKI App (Free of charge) that you install on your phone. ROCKI App lets you send music to ROCKI “PLAY” over Wifi, simply and effortlessly.

That’s it – easy does it!”

ROCKI has been getting a lot of good press recently when it comes to reviews and future plans. Cnet recently published a number of articles and a review on the device which was mainly positive and gives credit to the technology and idea behind the product.

Today the company posted a rather important news piece to their backers and fans on Facebook that the iOS app has been released.

The app can be downloaded here.

This is certainly good news as Apple fans have already enjoyed the product as it worked with AirPlay (“by mistake” as one of the founders mentioned to Cnet). We are left to wonder why the company didn’t make a bigger deal of this as they are tapping into a large audience of audio / streaming enthusiasts here.

Here is some feedback from users on their Facebook page:

“No streaming services, only local content? Guys come on, we’re in 2014.”

“Great! Indeed. Streaming services must have. Also streaming simultaneously to multiple Rocki’s please”

“Working quite well after a bit of teething trouble (my wifi is hit and miss) on iPhone 5S. Features I’d like to see are cloud sync’d faves and playlists being populated from music App or sync’d from cloud for use on multiple devices.”

“Finally! Now Spotify connect!”

So while people are excited at the same time the feedback on the announcement raises questions about how ready the product really is for a mainstream market. The idea and technology is great but are they pushing it too far too quickly? Some early reviews on Amazon seem to confirm that:
“I bought three of these during the Kickstarter campaign; I consider that as being a complete waste, as the product is completely unusable for what it claims to be able to do. AirPlay works for a few minutes (sometimes only seconds), then stops – with the only solution being restarting Rocki – it’s completely and utterly unusable. I peeked into the firmware, and the support is based copying a very old version of Shairport, so that’s no real surprise; pretty much zero work has been done there. It’s been months since this came out, and there have been zero real updates or fixes (there was one update that pretty much did nothing useful) – with communication from Rocki being extremely poor. Stay away.”

Reports of the app crashing mobile devices and the app being slow are frequent complaints. Many people point this out on the ROCKI forum, where you can see some of just that.

Our take on the whole thing is quite simple: The music streaming business is taking off and the ROCKI Play device as a concept is brilliant. Bluetooth is outdated and if the company can partner with major players such as Spotify (which they hinted at in one of the Cnet articles) it could be a game changer.

For that to happen though they would have to take it back a step, slow down and focus on the user experience, features and actually giving consumers that pay (even if it is only $49), a product that works and doesn’t make it a hassle to enjoy your music

Not too much to ask for, but it seems to be a trend amongst companies that are being financed through platforms like Kickstarter. Great for technology enthusiasts who get their hands on the latest equipment ahead of everyone else but the strategy to make the product a success for the mainstream market is missing. Our take: the ROCKI Play is a great product but the company needs to focus on keeping current customers happy, deliver promised features and a stable product because early negative customer feedback can kill anything regardless of the potential it has.

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