Twinkly ecosystem is utter garbage

Based on a couple of recommendations from various hosts I made a pretty big investment in Twinkly lights. I’m here to warn everyone else away from making my mistake.

I am trying to use them with the Android app, and it has never been a great experience, but now I am at the point where the app runs really slow (to point of the phone popping up a notice and asking me if I want to kill the app) and doesn’t work. My lights are basically now stuck how I last configured them and I cannot reconfigure them.

There doesn’t appear to be any way in the app to remove a set of lights you have added, so it appears the only way to start over would be to delete the app and all its data and then add the lights back in… which would involve climbing a ladder to push the button on the lights (not a fun prospect when I have 10 sets.)

My honest evaluation of the way the app works is that it was programmed by monkeys. Here’s how it’s worked since day one: You get a grid of effects, and there is no way to know what options it might have, such as colour configuration, speed choices, etc, without clicking on the item in grid. When you do, it immediately applies to your lights, even turning them on if they are off. If you decide you like the changes, and press apply, it asks you if you want to name the change or not. Then when you press apply, it hard crashes, and the lights revert back to their previous configuration. So it trains you to always name/save, so you can go find it after you relaunch, and apply it again.

It also allows you to make groups, but if you do make a group that doesn’t include all your lights, now the configurations for one group are not available to another. So if you wish to group your lights for your benefit (maybe you want the option to run them different at times and the same at times) then you are forced to manually reconfigure anything you do in one group again in the other. This is exhibited in the app as a constant rebuilding of the list of effects so that it can decide if the effect should be available for the current group. I have no idea who came up with this bizarre way of doing things, but I suspect they had hoped to sell effects, and somehow wanted to tie them to restricted sets of lights or something.

Other issues:

  • these lights use more power that you think… even being LED and the controller stays warm even if the lights are off
  • the design of the strings is usually two smaller strings coming out of the controller. For example if you bought a box that claimed 400 lights, what is actually in the box is a controller with two strings of 200 coming out of it. This may sound like nitpicking, but if you really need one long string, you’re now forced to figure out how to install them with the controller in the middle. If it’s on your roof line, how do you get power to the middle of the roof line when it only available at either end? If it’s on your tree, you now need to run power up the tree to meet the controller.
  • the lights (the controller really) is only rated IP44. This means it’s “splash proof” not water proof. This brings real concern to how durable these very expensive lights really are. You might be able to find a way to help shelter your controller, but if you take into account the issue above, where the controller is in the middle of a string, this gets more complicated.
  • the choice of effects is not as robust as you’d hope. They have numerous products, and many of their effects only make sense on one of them. They have a 10x10 wall (grid) product, that is kind of like a pixelboard (I assume, I don’t have this product.) A lot of the effects seem to be designed to animate in a way that would only be attractive on such a grid layout. If you want simple chases, or drip effects (for their icicle product) you’re out of luck. They make it seem, on the web site, that you can make your off effects, but this is a lie, near as I can tell. Their editor is for individual light strings or groups and you’re not building an effect really, your painting something static. It’s complicated, but trust me, with no docs, you’ll never figure it out anyway.
  • They promise you can use your phone to map your lights. This is a joke. I have 2000 lights… I have to stand in the street to get them all in, and this doesn’t work, the map produced looks like a scribble that a three year old would be proud of. Then you could theoretically paint on this crazy map, but there’s no zoom, and no way to get close to useful results.

I could probably go on, but this has gotten long enough… save your time, money and frustration and avoid Twinkly!