What Is uCella?
Billing itself as ‘the world's first smart home portal created for online shoppers to receive, return, track and manage their packages”, uCella started out as a Indiegogo project in early 2016 that was successfully funded by over 200 individuals. The company behind the product, ComingSoon, raised over $26,000 during the initial campaign on the crowdfunding platform.
In essence, uCella is a smart package delivery system; able to track and protect delivered products using modern day conveniences such as a camera for visual confirmation, a dedicated app for tracking, and a secured environment for theft prevention. uCella is designed to work well with multiple major mail carriers in the US, such as USPS, FedEx, and UPS.
For many of us, having a smart package management system that can easily track, secure, and manage incoming and outgoing packages sounds like it’d be a fantastic addition to our increasingly tech-driven lives, but does the device actually deliver on the concept?
How Does uCella Work?
From a high level, uCella is all about connecting you to your physical packages in order to keep you informed and assured that they will arrive safely on time. Many of us lead busy lives and having a convenient method to manage shipments and ensure they are secure when we are away, sounds like it could take one more “mental task” out of our jam-packed to-do lists.
According to the info provided by ComingSoon, this is what it would look like to receive a package using the uCella smart delivery system:
- Place your order online using your preferred shopping destination.
- Track orders using the native uCella app
- The product is delivered to the locked mailbox using the tracking number as a one-time-use code
- A delivery notification is sent to you via the app
- Use the uCella app to unlock the mailbox and retrieve your package
Users can already download the uCella app to track and manage shipments from online sites without being linked to the hardware portion of the service. It seems that uCella requests access to your email account in order to skim your inbox for confirmation numbers sent there after making a purchase from an online retailer.
Once a confirmation number is found, the app automatically registers it as a one-time use code for the delivery person to use. This concept is intriguing, but these codes can be quite long, and we wonder how many couriers will want to actively use this feature. Multiple users can use the same uCella device by syncing their emails to their own individual accounts and simply linking them each to the single uCella device. This means that there is no need to buy multiple devices for roommates and family members.
uCella’s Notable Features
uCella features a number of different features that ComingSoon claims will change the way you send and receive mail. Here’s a breakdown of the most notable features included with uCella:
IPS Touch Screen
The IPS display on uCella allows mail couriers to interact with the various features included on the mailbox, including unlocking compartment for incoming packages and leaving voice messages. This touch screen is the primary way users will interact with the physical device, and ComingSoon has stated that the interface is simplistic and easy to navigate, even for mail couriers who aren’t familiar with using one.
The built-in camera serves two primary functions: it allows couriers to scan in the tracking number to use as a one-time-use password, and it allows you to capture video and still imagery from afar so that you can visually confirm your delivery. Both of these actions can trigger push notifications directly to the app, allowing you to instantly see visual confirmation of a package being delivered.
uCella features several different security measures that are supposed to ensure that your packages can’t be stolen while you aren’t home. For one, there’s the ability to lock the physical mailbox, requiring a one-time access passcode to open up the main chamber. The Wi-Fi network uCella creates is protected by a password, and only authorized users can log in and manage details on the app itself.
uCella has a traditional mail slot for receiving regular mail, but it is important to note that the company maintains that it is not meant as a replacement for standard USPS mailboxes. Instead, the company says that it has been designed to be used as a “shared resource” for all carriers to utilize how they see fit.
According to the Indiegogo information page, installing uCella is as simple as utilizing the included wall mount template to place the device at the proper height along your front wall. You will need a bit of space where the device can be placed comfortably and where mail couriers can reach it, but you do not have to worry about having a power outlet nearby; the device runs off of its own internal battery.
- WIFI: 802.11b/g/n for uCella Cloud
- Secure and durable electronic lock
- GPS for accurate device location tracking
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Battery: Built-in lithium-ion battery + main rechargeable lithium-ion lithium-ion battery (Built-in battery ensures device stays functional while main battery is charging
- Display: 4.0” IPS 854x480 touchscreen
- Cameras: 5.0MP AF camera for scanning QR and barcodes 2.0MP camera for recording device usage activities
- Speaker: 90+/- 3db
- Microphone: >58db: >110db
- Operating time: Up to 30 days per charge under normal usage
- Operating temperature range: 5 F - 125 F
- Battery charging temperature range: 32 F - 113 F
- Water, dust, UV-resistant body
- Device Dimension (Folded): 21.65 in. (W) x 24.52 in. (H) x 3.85 in. (D)
- Device Dimension (Extended): 21.65 in. (W) x 43.52 in. (H) x 20.86 in. (D)
- Device Weight: 18 lbs
- Outer Shield Material: Water resistant coating, composite fabric, flame-retardant polymer, TPU coating
- Structural Materials: Industrial grade PVC plastic and aluminum alloy
Does uCella Deliver on Its Core Promise?
According to the Indiegogo page for uCella, the product was to begin shipping in March 2016. Subsequent updates to the page have shown that the company has indeed started shipping products to Bay Area California backers, but many in the comments section have complained about missed shipping dates and a general lack of communication from ComingSoon.
We pressed further into this issue on Indiegogo and found that ComingSoon staff have left multiple generic comments that haven’t, to date, fully addressed the numerous individuals’ complaints that their product has not been received. Additionally, some commenters were concerned that uCella might be in trouble due to financial issues, stating they believed that was behind the delays and lack of communication. As of 6 months ago, however, we’ve discovered that uCella has secured $1 million from private investors, adding a layer of complexity that the lack of thorough public communication only serves to make worse.
There are also several areas of concern that potential buyers should be aware of. For instance, while ComingSoon claims that they’ve conducted field tests and found that mail couriers had no problems operating the device, some early users have seemingly reported that they have had issues with utilization from various carriers. Also, it stands to reason that even though uCella has an expandable compartment, certain large items, such as TV’s and sound systems will not fit inside the box’s dimensions. Potential buyers should be aware of these limitations before making a purchase.
uCella Pricing & Returns
Based on the pricing information available on Indiegogo, the retail version of uCella is priced right at $399. Attempts to confirm this price via uCella’s website have been unsuccessful. Despite the fact that the product should be shipping currently, as of February 2017 we can’t seem to find a way to purchase it.
Additionally, several commenters on the Indiegogo page have left messages inquiring about refunds. It is unclear at this time if these requests have been carried out successfully or not, and with no purchase information available at the time of publication, it is unclear what the return policy entails for this product. We recommend exerting caution on moving forward until ComingSoon clears this up.
Bottom Line on uCella
We think that there’s a ton of potential with uCella to make sending, receiving and tracking packages easier and more convenient. Having the added security of knowing that your packages have arrived and are securely stored would potentially be a huge help to busy families, especially considering the rising trend of making household purchases online. No longer would you have to plan your schedule around deliveries, or have to worry about asking your neighbors to grab a package from your doorstep because you’re afraid someone might steal it.
All of that being said, we are hesitant to fully recommend this product, at least in its current state. The lack of communication and retail availability coupled with clear signs of internal delays gives us pause. Also, seeing that we can’t find a place to actually purchase the product at the moment, it is unclear what uCella’s future looks like, at least until ComingSoon releases an update on availability. If you are a backer of the Indiegogo campaign and haven’t yet received your product, we recommend you contact uCella directly at hello@uCella.com.
Ultimately, because the latest shipping update from uCella was nearly a year ago (at the time of this writing), and no consumer reviews on the actual product exist, nor did we test it, at present time it is difficult to tell if the product actually lives up to the expectations set forth in the original Indiegogo video.