So, I had Pressy plugged into my headphone jack for about two days after I received it, then gave up, took it out, put it in its keychain holster…and promptly forgot it existed until a few days ago.  Oops. If you’re thinking this doesn’t bode well for the rest of the review, you’re not wrong – but let me elaborate.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Pressy, the idea was to leverage what is, for many people, an underutilized aspect of the smartphone – the 3.5 mm headphone jack – and turn it into a customizable hardware button for Android phones. It sticks out a bit on my Nexus 5, but this isn’t unexpected – it is supposed to be a button, after all, so I wouldn’t expect it to be flush:

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It doesn’t blend in terribly well, of course, given that it’s not designed for any one device.  Again, this is a limitation I knew going into it, so it wasn’t really a surprise, but it is worth noting that if you use Pressy without a case, your phone will probably look rather strange – which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, if they added functionality actually justified it.

As someone who has longed for a phone with a hardware camera shutter key, Pressy seemed like a great idea.  The actual implementation of this idea isn’t bad, per say, I just don’t think it lives up to my expectations – primarily because of buggy, unfinished software.  During my brief time with Pressy, I set it up to do a few key things:

  1. Single press – Play/Pause the current playing audio
  2. Long press – Open the camera app
  3. Two short presses – Go to the previous audio track
  4. Two long presses – Turn on the camera flash

Here are the bugs I encountered with this fairly simple setup:

  • Sometimes long presses would be registered as short presses and vice-versa.  Most notably, sometimes it would never open the camera and only play/pause music.
  • The “previous audio track” option never even worked; it always went to the next audio track.  How do you not notice something like this when testing?
  • Pressy could be slow to respond to commands.  It was faster to go into my camera app from the lockscreen than to try and do it with Pressy.  Speaking of the camera…
  • Pressy’s attempt to access the camera hardware after a long press would, occasionally, crash the camera app on my Nexus 5 and make it completely unavailable until reboot.  The second time this happened is when I gave up and took Pressy out of my phone; I can tolerate buggy software, but I can’t tolerate disabling my camera when I would presumably want to be using it most.

Pressy was an interesting experiment, but the overall result – right now at least – is unremarkable.  The good news is that most of the issues are on the software side, so if the folks behind Pressy are able to get some of the kinks worked out, I might give it another shot at some point in the future.  The camera bug is actually my biggest concern, though – I’m just not willing to risk missing an important moment for the minor convenience of a hardware camera button.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m most excited by technology that blends effortlessly into your life, and at times Pressy does come surprisingly close to that – but not close enough.  If I’m adding an actual physical button to my device, I expect it to function as well and as seamlessly as a real physical button would.  Perhaps it’s an unfair way of judging it, but in my experience, the more a piece of technology physically alters the appearance and feel of something I use every day, the higher the bar is.

The inability of Pressy to physically blend in with your device turns out to be an apt metaphor for how it feels to use; it’s mostly functional, but ultimately half-baked and underwhelming.  I’ll continue to keep it on my keychain, though, in case Pressy is able to fix their software problems – or an enterprising third-party comes along to leverage the hardware in more interesting ways.