Living (apart) with Triby

Dec 7, 2015
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triby-family-time

I don’t often do product reviews. In between the monotony of listing features & component and the terrible age of unboxing videos, I tend to let the user decide for themselves; however, when I saw Triby at the beginning of this year at CES, I was hooked. From a distance, Triby looks like a glorified connected refrigerator magnet; however, this family communication platform is gearing up to replace the home phone & skype, just like Ily.

One has only to look at Invoxia, the company that made Triby, to know that this thing is the real deal.  I first met Invoxia CEO Serge Renouard when the company was principally pushing Audioffice, a 21st century office phone which pushes phone calls to your mobile when you’re not in the room. So, when I saw Triby displaying corny “#CES2015” text in Las Vegas, I knew that everything that matters for a home communication: great quality audio, seamless integration with smartphones & the home/wifi system.

My family’s quite small today, but as someone who’s been doing a medium-distance relationship for the past four years, I immediately saw an opportunity to simplify messaging with my companion. We set up the Triby at her house – the onboarding was smooth, as one would expect – set our preset numbers (mine, and… well that’s about it), and we even picked our favorite radio stations (NPR, KEXP, Studio Brussel) to listen to. We played around with it for 5 minutes – it doesn’t have much appeal when everyone’s in the same room – and so we left it, and at the end of the weekend, I headed back and the test-spin began.

The biggest issue we ran into (apart from not having charged it fully the first time through) was that both of us don’t have iPhones, so only one of us can download the Triby app – I’m sure an Android app is coming, but that made it a one-sided conversation pretty quickly. It wasn’t as much of a problem given that the Triby was at her house; however, the fact that Triby can’t send text-based messages on it’s own makes it tough.

Nonetheless, we’ve enjoyed having it around: it’s a solid radio right out of the box. Receiving messages with a cute mailbox flag -style notification makes walking into the kitchen a nice surprise (or a disappointment, given the aforementioned battery life issue). Also, audio calls go both ways, though we still favor Facebook calling as our preferred VOIP calling method (we’re usually chatting on Messenger anyway).

I think Triby has some real promise – for families as well as for people that just want to leave cute notes on the fridge for their significant others. I didn’t see us leaving as many practical messages, like “don’t forget to get bread” or messages you imagine people left on the fridge with post-its when we didn’t have the wonders of the Internet, but it has certainly been a solid experience for us.

I think that Triby is the first step, and I’m curious to see what the next one is: a full-fledged home phone would be up Invoxia’s alley, but maybe integration with other calling services (skype, facebook calling, facetime, whatever) would be interesting. If Triby didn’t have to deal with battery life, or if fridges had USB ports (though I suspect if they had USB ports, they’d probably have interfaces that would compete with Triby as well), I’d push for video & a non e-ink screen.

As a Christmas gift, I’d recommend it for families, especially if you’re not early adopters. There’s no learning curve to get using it, and the limitation is focused and limited enough that anyone – a 5 year-old, a 15 year-old, a 45 year-old or a 75 year-old – could start using it immediately.