Fidget Cube : Fidgetively Speaking~ The Epilogue

While Antsy Labs may have failed to live up to many peoples expectations throughout the entire Kickstarter project and fulfillment process, [and quite possibly even in your satisfaction with the final product], the one thing we absolutely have to give them credit for is having come up with the the concept of the fidget cube itself in the first place. They may have been beaten to the market on many fronts, out priced, and even outdone in the quality of product, but they gave us the original idea. We backed this Kickstarter because we thought it was cool and we were right. A fidget cube is a great toy to fidget with. 

Thank you Matthew and Mark for fun ride.

 

Originally, once I had gotten my AntsyLabs Fidget Cube™ (pat.pending) I had planned on doing a post comparing it with some of the clones. I’m not going to bother anymore. Other people have pretty well saturated that niche. Who cares?

At the most depressing end of the scale, my experience with the two genuine cubes shows me that the quality control within AL’s own product line is highly undependable. A lot of people seem to think their Gen-u-ine™ cubes are just peachy-keen, and a lot of people seem to a find a bunch of defects like I did. Mine were glaring enough to request replacement. But only a quick scan of the current KS comments page shows a bunch of folks reporting noticeable differences just within the batch of cubes delivered to them.

Notably there was this comment from “@Mikhail G.~  [Kickstarter Superbacker] April 9th:  Got our cubes yesterday. As others have said, build quality is inconsistent – each one we’ve tried has at least one different weird thing about it (spinner sticks, joystick is too tight, one dial seems way looser than any of the others, rollerballs have very different rolling properties, etc.), which is not ideal. Still, been fidgeting with them since we got them, so overall not bad.” 

I have my own doubts as to whether my genuine cube is actually the same in terms of quality as those that shipped in the January/February batches. Nobody writing in the comment section back then seemed to be complaining about product quality. Anyway, each one of us likes what we like, so I am just going to give a brief look-see at the cubes that have come my way while I waited on the Kickstarter “rewards” one to finally get to me.

 

I wrote in one of the earlier posts back in March:  “I am going to assume that most of you who have navigated over here from the KS “Comments” page are reasonably familiar with the clone offerings. What I ended up getting was one of the “camo” colored cubes, a black or “midnight” cube, and a white one with lime buttons. Three different sources, three very different prices. Two with free shipping, and each of them delivered within four days of order.”  Since that point, I got a white one with lime-green buttons, and I also tried to acquire one of the blue-ish clones with contrasting red buttons [along with black joystick and spinners]. One of these disappeared in the China Post sorting center in GUANGZHOU back in February, and the replacement unit that was authorized has been languishing in the same place for three weeks now. Time will tell.* [It too is now in hand…. it’s the darker gray unit in the photo… NOT blue and NO red buttons! An eBay purchase of a Carolina blue camo cube with red buttons went awry and was never fulfilled by the seller… [that was a pity because it was intended for my UNC-fan sweetie down in Carolina… to keep her calm during the ACC and NCAA tournaments] Then, because of @NialP’s recommendation, I also ordered one of the “mini” cubes with the built-in keychain loop just to see what they were like. And, finally, about 10 days ago I actually found a cube clone alive-n-kickin’ in a Five Below° brick-and-mortar store, so I picked up a Space Grey one for $5 at retail.

And, of course, after the replacement adventure detailed below, I also now have a fully functional Antsy Labs genuine Fidget Cube™ Kickstarter Limited Edition!

There was a wide range in the prices. Most of the Chi-clones were around $4 regardless of quality. The Mini was only $2.25, and the most expensive one was the Camo-Cube at about $13 from a US based seller on eBay. [US vendor cubes ALL seem to run to higher prices. This is why, as long as you are willing to wait on delivery for a couple of weeks, the Hong Kong direct units are a much better deal.]

SO… what do I like?~~

  • My favorite since it arrived back in January, and my benchmark in judging the others as they came along, has been the Camo cube. It was the first one I got, and also the most expensive. It is close to what AL told us a fidget cube would be. The buttons are rubber, three click/two silent, and I prefer their feel to the hard plastic. The chrome ball rolls freely, but with just enough friction to let you feel the rotation…and it does do the pen-click thing when pressed. The joystick does not click down, but because it is mounted on a metal ball bearing it had a good swivel range and snaps back to center with a resounding “chunk”. The twirl wheel is an absolute joy with no friction whatsoever…. It is easy to spin as fast as you can make your thumb move. What I most enjoy about a free-wheeling twirl is being able to place the cube twirl down and then spin the whole cube on its axis. The switch is well balanced between it’s snap-back and a smooth rocking motion. The gear-wheels do not ratchet, but have a snug fit that allows some resistance to your finger pressure. The other major difference is that this cube is made of ABS or some kind of vinyl like Antsy originally indicated. I think this provides a nicer overall feel the hand.
  • The next one that came was the solid black. It is hard plastic with hard plastic buttons, so the in-hand feel is not as good.  The joystick does click up-and-down, but the thumb pad is smaller in diameter than on others, and the first click allows the joystick to flop around randomly… a second click returns it to position. The three gears ratchet, but are quite stiff and difficult to rotate. It does have the larger chrome ball like an Antsy Lab unit… but it only rotates in one direction… side to side. You can’t continue your thumb-roll up onto the gears. The twirl wheel has such a small thumb-nub that it is hard to keep going. The cubes rattles if shaken, and overall has a cheapo feel to it. It has became my benchmark for “Meh!”.
  • The white one with lime buttons is basically the same as the camo unit. Maybe slight differences in “feel” to individual features, but a nice cube. I really like the idea of different colors used for different features.
  • The SpaceGray [lighter] unit is the one that came from Five Below°. It is actually quite decent. Vinyl, with a good switch, 3/2 buttons, the smaller click-joystick… but one that does not flop, and gears that ratchet, but require a little more force to push than I would really like. If you knew nothing about fidget cubes at all, I think you would be very happy with one of these, and five bucks is a good retail price-point.
  • The darker gray cube was supposed to be the “blue” with red buttons. It just came in the mail this morning [out of China]. Sadly, it is the new poster child for a bad cube. It comes in a couple of notches below the old black one. Hard Plastic buttons that all click the same with little range-of-motion/ A wobbly twirl wheel/A good large ball bearing, but the gears are even more difficult to ratchet/…. and most disappointing of all: The switch is very stiff and seems to have notches cut its lower side that actually “ratchet” against other teeth or something down inside the cube [like the gears do] rather than slip/flip like the switches on all the other cubes. The case of the unit is a decent vinyl, but it has noticeable gaps between the two portions. …only 1.75 pts outta 10 on this one.
  • The Mini is just that…  mini. Everything works, but it’s awfully small. The switch is not very impressive and only one of the gears seems to engage to ratchet. The one really fun part of it is that you can push down on all five of the clicky buttons at once, or roll your thumb around on them so that they kind of crackle. It sort of gives you the feel good that you get from popping bubble wrap.
  • That brings me to my [replacement] Gen-U-ine AntsyLabs Fidget Cube™ (pat.pending). As I mentioned in a post on the Kickstarter comments page, I have to eat crow on this one. After all of the doubts that I had expressed about what our final “rewards” product might be, they nailed it!  While there may very well be variations in the cubes that are finally being distributed as rewards, my replacement is pretty much everything they promised us originally. The switch has a nice light touch, and can be used silently. The gears have the smoothest action of any of the ones that I have seen [among those that do have the ratchet feature] …they have a nearly perfect balance between auditory and tactile feedback. The big, black bearing is nice and slick in its 360° 3D rotation. The two non-click buttons have a wonderful springiness or “bounce back”.  The “Glide” on this ones does indeed glide [but I miss the click-down part from some of the other joystick style units], and the sawtooth friction on the twirl wheel is equally as rewarding as the speed spinning that I liked doing on the other units. The two things I would change would be swapping the hard plastic for vinyl on the case and a soft rubber on the buttons.

 

The whole “Fidget Cube” thing was a really great concept. The genuine Antsy Labs version and the better clones are all worth having. No cube is going to be perfect for everyone. We all have our differences and preferences about how we fidget most satisfactorily. I can only give the genuine cube an “8 out of 10” because of the reported deficiencies and defects that I’ve seen on the comments page. I’m not convinced that what you will get is what I got. However, I’m not going to give the Camo cube more than eight out of 10 either.

THIS ONE??? ……… IT gets a full 9!

 

When I saw this final cube variation up for offer on a Chinese site a couple of weeks ago I was pure-tee compelled to buy it.  It was “only” $4.99 more out of the Fidgetively Speaking research budget… so, WTF.

The teak woodgrain adds a refined esthetic that none of the others can touch. This is the board room/country club fidget cube. This is the one that you show off to the rest of the blokes in your regiment at your gentleman’s club in Mayfair.

In actuality, it is not much different than the camo cube I bought originally. However, just about all of the features are slightly more refined, and slightly better fitted to my style of fidgeting. One of the most salient differences is that these rubberized buttons all have an initial, soft detent when pressed… before the”click” buttons click, they silently and squishily bottom out… this means you can use all five buttons in stealth-mode. Pressing with a little more force yields the snapback click. Everything just “feels” better on this one… smoother… better executed… more satisfying… and that’s what soothes my fidgeting Jones. It gets a nine out of 10 because I say it gets a nine out of 10. My cube, my fidget, my scale.

[The manufacturer producing this last cube is also offering them in a variety of other funky color schemes… You can get leopard, tiger and zebra skin, tiny polka-dots, three or four versions of camo,  flames and the wood grain in two tones. There are also offerings that run toward the Peter Max/psychedelic range and a starry/purple one called “Planetary” that looks like those colorized photos of deep space objects from the Hubble telescope. Some of these feature contrasting button selections as well. I suspect there will even be more funky offerings to choose from in the coming months.]

 

I now leave you with a final thought about anxiety and fidgeting in general. It is simple. Just stop, take a moment to ask yourself this question: “Do I actually have any idea exactly what-so-fucking-ever what was bothering me, causing my anxiety and filling me with existential dread one year ago today?”

I am guessing probably not….  But hopefully your cube will help.

Persevere….  Stay Calm and Fidget On.

 

 

AFTERWORD ~~ About my replacement experience:

I finally got my “shipping” notice email on March 15th. As we all know, that didn’t mean that I was actually going to get my cube anytime soon…

However, when my Antsy Labs Gen-U-ine Fidget Cube™(pat.pending) [via Kickstarter/ Backerkit/the egregious “shipping partners”/DHL/USPS/ad nauseam] finally arrived it was defective. The Glide grated roughly and made a bunch of noise, the Roller Ball basically was too tight to roll without force, the Click-Locks didn’t click at all… they spun loosely, and you had to push down so hard on the TwirlWheel to get traction for it to move at all that it was obviously “bottoming out” and scraping in its socket. With this cube fidgeting was just no fun.

Now, there was no way that these could have occurred through “damage in handling”. In my case, the cube container was tightly packaged inside a cardboard box, the plastic container was in perfect condition, and was itself was heavily sealed in bubble wrap. The cube was still securely glued to its base, and the base was attached to the container. The defects were quite obviously in manufacturing and assembly. The unit simply never should have passed QC.

I was put in the unenviable position of having to contact Antsy Labs for a replacement. Here is the timeline for my whole experience.

  • March 15th~ first shipping email
  • March 20~ package finally arrived Compton
  • [NO updates whatsoever to tracking info]
  • March 27~ transfer to USPS [MA]
  • rec’d March 28th- It didn’t take more than a couple of minutes to determine that it was obviously defective, so I emailed “hello@” ??-ing replacement
  • no response for a week
  • April 3~ FB messaged AL re: “defective”
  • April 5th~ finally got a response from “hello@”
  • April 5th-7th~ dialog/w AL rep & a video sent resulting in a replacement authorization sent to Backerkit and on to “fulfillment partners”
  • April 7th~ replacement approved
  • April 11~ “new” shipped – estimated to arrive April 12, 2017 – May 2, 2017.”
  • April 12~ cleared Compton to USPS
  • [nothing]
  • April 17~ transfer to USPS [MA]
  • April 18th~ my replacement cube arrives at my PO… unfortunately, at that point I am gone Upptacamp with my best bud.
  • Friday, April 21st.~ cube received in-hand

I know that many people have been very frustrated by Antsy Labs inability or refusal to reply to the emails they have sent regarding lost and damaged cubes. It was also obvious by a couple of months ago that they had no interest in replying or participating in their own KS “Comments” page. I can certainly understand that this all left a lot of people feeling that they have been hung out to dry. None of my frustrations are really any worse than other’s experiences trying to deal with lost and missing cubes, slow shipping, lack of response, etc. However, it did result in both replies and in my getting a replacement cube… something that has not happened for everyone.

This may be partly due to the fact that I put a very brief and succinct description of the problem in the actual title bar of the first email. [it was something along the line of: “Fidget Cube #91,746 Defective cube received/ Dec tier backer”] That way staff could see what the request was about in a quick scan of the incoming mail. I’d also made every effort to be polite and simply focus on the details of my complaint without any bitching, moaning or complaining. “Just the facts, Ma’am”,s Sgt.Friday always told us. Face it, there is absolutely no point in railing against entry level position minions down in the dungeon. The project creators were never going to read your email, and all you’re going to achieve by being an asshole is alienating the very folks who have at least some power to do something to help you.

My own experience was that both an email and then a follow-up FB post regarding that specific email seemed to be effective. I intentionally spaced mine out about a week apart…. to give them an opportunity to reply, to not further participate in more of of the email tsunami, and to prevent any impression that I was nagging them. It worked for me. While another 10 days passed in trying to get a replacement, including sending them a video showing the unit’s failings, in the end I was allowed to keep the damaged cube… so at least I didn’t have to spend any more money shipping it back just to get what I had expected in the first place… and a replacement was authorized.

While I indeed received the same Kickstarter Green unit that I had originally ordered as my replacement, I had also given them the option of sending any color that they might actually have in stock if that would expedite a solution.

 

[The thing that I most appreciate about buying stuff out of China is that the majority of it comes with a shipping/receipt guarantee… If it disappears in the ether, they will either give you your money back or send a replacement. Antsy Labs could profitably learn a lot about this]

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