Introduction

Review: Kwilt® Shoebox Personal Cloud Gateway

Review: Kwilt® Shoebox Personal Cloud Gateway

Want an alternative to One Drive or Dropbox? Don’t want to pay for monthly or annual fees just to have access to your images and videos? Want to have control about the amount of storage you have in the cloud?

The Kwilt Shoebox is one solution that positively answers these questions. A personal cloud, scaled by you.

From September 2017, the Kwilt® Shoebox Launch Video:

With just a few small pieces of equipment, apps, USB storage and a WiFi connection that is under your control, you can create your own cloud. There are no additional costs beyond the cost of the Kwilt Shoebox unit (the retail price at press time was $69 US).

Kwilt Shoebox box front
From #CES2018: Kwilt Shoebox box front

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Kwilt Shoebox, box back
Kwilt Shoebox, box back

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Paper bits, including a fabulous K sticker, inside the Kwilt Shoebox box
Paper bits, including a fabulous K sticker, inside the Kwilt Shoebox box

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Kwilt Shoebox, equipment before unboxing
From #CES2018: Kwilt Shoebox, equipment before unboxing

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Kwilt Shoebox, equipment spread out
From #CES2018: Kwilt Shoebox, equipment spread out

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 mini-HDMI port, micro-USB for storage, micro-USB for power
Kwilt Shoebox: mini-HDMI port, micro-USB for storage, micro-USB for power

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All plugs occupied
Kwilt Shoebox: all plugs occupied

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Only power brick plugged in
Kwilt Shoebox: only power brick plugged in

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Only power and USB adapter plugged in
Only power and USB adapter plugged in

At press time, there was little reason to use the HDMI output. An expected feature called KwiltCast will allow you to view videos and photos accessible by your Kwilt account to a connected television. Your Kwilt app will act as your remote control.

HDMI port adapter and HDMI port
HDMI port adapter and HDMI port (not yet functional at press time)

The last thing I did before proceeding with app acquisition, WiFi setups and testing, I plugged in a small USB drive.

USB drive plugged into USB port adapter.
Kwilt Shoebox: USB drive plugged into USB port adapter.

The point of the Kwilt Shoebox is you may turn single or multiple storage devices into your personal cloud. Your iOS or Android smartphone device is your computing and management tool for this. Your actual drive or drives are the storage medium for your cloud, something you can physically managed and control. Beyond your personal connectivity costs, media costs and the Kwilt Shoebox unit cost, you should not be worried about the (additional) monthly or annual fees you pay Dropbox or other services. Even then, you can integrate Dropbox into your Kwilt workflow if you already have it.

I started with this small SanDisk USB drive and then later tried out system with the addition of a powered USB 3 hub with multiple ports.

Kwilt app in the iOS App Store
Kwilt app in the iOS App Store

The first network activity is to connect your mobile device directly with the Kwilt Shoebox.

Talking to the box via the app
Kwilt Shoebox: Talking to the box via the app

You will eventually connect your setup to your WiFi network. This works as expected with you are able to provide ID and password access to the device, like a typical home WiFi setup.

Naming and securing your setup
Kwilt Shoebox: naming and securing your setup

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An initial view of my iPhone photos before copying or transferring
Kwilt Shoebox: an initial view of my iPhone photos before copying or transferring

If you have a large enough storage setup, you can copy or even offload your phone’s videos and photos to the Kwilt Shoebox. This means that you worry less about running out of built storage on the device. iPhone HEIC photos should be more fully supported by the time you read this. As press time, the Kwilt app could read HEIC photos and videos already on your iPhone or iPad. You could even transfer them to your Shoebox. Once there, though, the Kwilt app was not able to render or read them.

I found that WiFi connections worked well while my 4G and LTE connections were less peppy.

If you switch on the included KwiltKeys photo Keyboard for iOS, you can locate any image and place it in an app that takes keyboard input by.

KwiltKeys - custom keyboard input for images in collection
KwiltKeys – custom keyboard input for images in collection

Beyond the basic backup and external storage functionality, Microsoft Office 365 apps can access your Kwilt app-acknowledged content, including your Dropbox account, if you so choose. These additional apps – Kwilt for Office 365 and Kwilt for Outlook – are available from the Office store.

KwiltKeys in Microsoft Word on my iPhone, looking for image to insert
KwiltKeys in Microsoft Word on my iPhone, looking for image to insert
Inserting photo of Jerry, one of my Birman cats, via the KwiltKeys feature
Inserting photo of Jerry, one of my Birman cats, via the KwiltKeys feature

Following the instructions, I had no significant difficulties getting all of the expected features to work.

The main quirk encountered so far was navigating in and out of videos.

At about 59 seconds into the recording, the Kwilt app seems to quit or exit rather than return me to the file menu.

An alternative method for accessing videos is through the Kwilt app interface itself, rather than depending on this folder-based interface I demonstrated.

As mentioned earlier, the KwiltCast feature was not ready at press time. When I last connected the Kwilt Shoebox to my Sony HDTV, I see this screen.

KwiltCast Coming Soon
Kwilt Shoebox: KwiltCast Coming Soon

When I happened to unplug the device and plug it back in when the television was still tuned to the Shoebox, I got this display. Seems that the TV identified it as a Raspberry device.

Raspberry code/instructions from the Kwilt Shoebox output
Raspberry code/instructions from the Kwilt Shoebox output

At press time, the release of the KwiltCast feature is expected for the early part of the second quarter of 2018. The Android app, in beta form as of this posting, is expected to be in its official form by the end of March 2018.

All-in-all, the Kwilt Shoebox meets all features available at press time. Its easy setup and ease of use, while limited to your 4G/LTE or WiFi Android and iOS devices (i.e. no wired Ethernet connection), is buoyed by the modularity of your storage options and the non-requirement of a subscription fee. While the KwiltCast feature will be interesting to play with, its lack of availability is not yet a major concern for me. The Kwilt app is clean but needs some refinement, like the navigation issue shown in my demonstration video. I experienced this each time I wished to move among my video clips.

I rate the Kwilt Shoebox a strong 9 out of 10.