Balancing Act

iKAMAND by Kamado Joe First Impressions; Thoughts and Review

The Kamado Joe iKAMAND BBQ Controller

Update 7/25/18: I have written a new article documenting my 1-month update and report on the iKAMAND. Be sure to read it here, after you read this article! 

So after about a week of ownership and using the iKAMAND to control five low and slow cooks, including one 18-hour overnighter and a high temperature searing session for steaks, I have an enriched knowledge of the device. In addition, I’ve also updated the iKAMAND app as they roll out, updated the iKAMAND firmware as soon as they become available and I’ve also experienced Desora‘s first unexpected cloud outage and also one planned server maintenance. I believe I have a thorough assessment of the smart BBQ temperature controller designed by Kamado Joe and developed in collaboration with Desora. This is my personal experience, opinion and first impressions using the Kamado Joe iKAMAND smart BBQ temperature monitor and controller.

This assessment is for the first generation iKAMAND, running on iOS 11.4 using iKAMAND iOS app version 2.0.7 and firmware 1.0.43. Hopefully subsequent improvements to the iKAMAND’s firmware and app will render the “Bad” and the “Ugly” lists within this article obsolete.

The bottom line is, despite several quality control shortfalls, when the iKAMAND works uninterrupted, it works great and it works as designed and I absolutely love it.

The Good

Form and Function

We consider our home a “smart home” due to the number of connected devices we have installed so the iKAMAND naturally fits right in. As far as overall install and experience goes, the iKAMAND is as “plug-n-play” as it goes. No servo operated dampers, no robots, no one-size-fits-all universal adapter plate with a conspicuous blower sticking out of the lower vent like a sore thumb and no rigmarole involved that makes your Kamado Joe look like it is connected to a life support system. The iKAMAND, formerly known as the KJ BBQ Wizard, was designed by Kamado Joe and specifically for your Kamado Joe. The form was executed quite beautifully, albeit some quality issues (more on this in “The Bad.”)

Being a WiFi connected smart device means I can view the pit and meat probe temperatures anywhere, anytime. This means I can also control the pit temperature remotely from the palm of my hand, which I’ve done so in a recent low and slow with spare ribs while I was at work.

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This also means I no longer have to run towards the back of my home to get the temperature read out from my iGrill2 thermometer due to its limited Bluetooth range. I can check the pit and meat temperatures conveniently in bed during an overnight cook too.

If you’re tech savvy, the set up is pretty easy and straight forward as long as you have the correct 2.4 gHz band WiFi network available, more on this later in “The Bad” section. Otherwise, setup can get a little confusing for the none techie user. I consider myself technically inclined and our household network uses an AmpliFi HD mesh network with dual 2.4 gHz and 5.0 gHz WiFi band. Set up took less than 5 minutes for me, from signing up for a new iKAMAND user account via the mobile app, to connecting to the iKAMAND and configuring it to connect to our home network.

Easy to Install

Installing the iKAMAND unit onto my Kamado Joe Classic II was also straight forward, whether I choose to install it as officially recommended (which I actually don’t recommend since it’s labor intensive) or as I and many other iKAMAND users did: slide the iKAMAND vent cover over the original lower vent sliding door and use both simultaneously:

iKAMAND installation

 

iKAMAND installation

If you insist on removing the original lower vent sliding door, you can simply push it towards the right side, prop it over the two screws and remove. No need to remove the firebox to undo the screws from the inside.

iKAMAND iOS App

The iKAMAND app is pretty intuitive with lots of potential for growth and improvement. It is easy to use, the temperature control is spot on and the temperature monitor produces highly detailed graphs for data nerds like myself.

Detailed pit and food temperature is one of the iKAMAND app's shining feature.

Detailed pit and food temperature is one of the iKAMAND app’s shining feature.

For cooking larger pieces of meat low and slow, such as a brisket or pork butt, the graph identifies exactly when the meat hits the infamous “stall,” the point where you can wrap the meat in butcher paper or aluminum foil if you choose to.

The app will also notify you if there is a firmware update available:

And you have the option to either update now or postpone update for later.

The recipes library could have been expanded. When the iKAMAND was released, there were only a handful of recipes, about 40 in all and you can only find them if you tap on “Browse Recipes” or “See All.” Granted, you can browse through John Setzler’s YouTube channel for hundreds of Kamado Joe specific recipes, but having it within the iKAMAND app would’ve been a neat touch especially when you’re prepping a meal while waiting for your Kamado Joe to rise to the desired temperature using the iKAMAND.

As of iOS app version 2.0.7, only the last three recently added recipes appear on the home screen of the iKAMAND app.

Notifications

The notification features of the app is solid, although having the notification audible and configurable (as in, which notifications we’d like to receive) would take it to the next level. Notification can be set as an SMS text message or a pop-up banner on your phone. Notifications are sent when certain temperature criteria is met, for example:

  • when the pit temperature is significantly below temperature
  • when pit reaches desired temperature
  • when pit is 10 degrees above desired temperature
  • when food is is approaching the desired temperature
  • when food reached desired temperature
  • when food is considered overdone
  • when the lid is opened

For iKAMAND operation specific notifications, such as if the iKAMAND loses internet connection, you’ll see a banner notification on your phone but won’t receive an SMS text.

As mentioned, an added improvement would be to enable sound notification, like the Weber iGrill2. As of the iKAMAND app version 2.0.7, notifications are silent.

Easy to Understand LED read-out

The three different colors (teal, blue, green) of the LED read-out is easy to see and understand.

If I see the LED steadily blinking blue, I understand that it is trying to connect to the WiFi network. When I see the LED turn solid blue, then I know iKAMAND is connected to the internet and ready for instructions. If I see it solid green, I understand that it is in BBQ or grill mode. If I see it blinking teal, I understand that it is booting up or updating its firmware.

Kudos to the Desora / iKAMAND team for making the LED read-out easy to understand.

Updating the Kamado Joe iKAMAND firmware

At a Glance Temperature Monitoring

I like how the individual probe temperatures are listed on the home screen in addition to the pit temperature. The fan output percentage is also conveniently displayed (measuring the voltage being supplied to the axial flow fan). The individual probe temperature includes a virtual thermometer with the probe’s current temperature and it changes color from light orange (cool) to red (ready) accordingly and the virtual thermometer “fills up” as it approaches the desired internal temperature. When I tap on the individual temperature probe virtual thermometer, I am taken directly to the temperature monitoring graph for that particular probe (or I can simply swipe left at the home screen until I get to the probe).

I can also monitor the temperature of additional meat on the fly simply by tapping on “ADD FOOD” after inserting additional probe (more on this in “The Ugly” section) into the meat item and placing it on the grill. I can add food while the iKAMAND is stoking the fire, or after the pit has reached desired temperature and the iKAMAND will begin monitoring the new probe as soon as I instruct it to start the new cook.

Smart open lid detection

A neat feature of the iKAMAND is its built-in open lid detection. The way it works is, if the dome lid of your Kamado Joe is opened, the iKAMAND will detect it by sudden change in ambient temperature.

It will send a notification to the app and will temporarily shut off power to the fan instead of running the fan at 100% to compensate for the drop in temperature. The iKAMAND will continue operation once it detects the dome lid is closed.

Moisture proof

The owner of Kamado Joe, Bobby Brennan, posted a video of the versatility of the iKAMAND by dunking it into a container filled with water while it was plugged in and the fan spinning at 100%. I’m happy to report that this feature is carried into the production model. While I did not dunk my iKAMAND running at 100% fan output into a container of water, it did accumulate moisture from an 18 hour overnight low and slow cook. I

Moisture accumulates during overnight low and slow.

Moisture accumulates during overnight low and slow.

So much moisture has accumulated that it condensed into liquid and dripped onto my grill mat.

After the overnight low and slow cook, I hosed down the iKAMAND with soapy water to wash away any residual liquid to prevent gunk build-up like the Kontrol Tower, allowed it to air dry and then fired it up.

 

It was running without any problems. I am happy to say that I can confidently rely on the iKAMAND for overnight cooks or even extended daytime low and slows through an unexpected rainstorm.

Here is Kamado Joe’s official statement on iKAMAND’s waterproof:

Is my iKamand waterproof?

  • The iKamand has water proof coating on the major electronic parts to prevent weather damage or moisture damage. It is waterproof but will not withstand submerging in water or extreme weather conditions. We also recommend storing it in its waterproof case when not in use.

  • The waterproof coating prevents water damage in the power and probe ports. If your rubber port coverings are loose, your iKamand should still be able to withstand light water exposure. 

  • You may see condensation or liquid/water droplets on your iKamand after a “Low and Slow” cook. Wipe your iKamand down and leave to dry before using again.

The iKAMAND is not a perfect tool and improvements are continuous as its share of user expands. Let’s review some of the bad qualities.

The Bad

Now we’ve looked at the good features of the iKAMAND, let’s take a look at the bad and see how it affects set up and user experience.

Unsatisfactory Craftsmanship

The build of the iKAMAND unit could have been improved, especially with two years of design and development. At a glance, the iKAMAND unit looks great, comes in a neat waterproof pouch and appears to be a solidly built device. But there are minor quality issues I have with it that makes it fall short for a product bearing the Kamado Joe name.

iKAMAND Unboxing

For example, the rubber power port cover does not snugly fit in the hole it was designed to plug. In fact, it doesn’t actually plug the power port itself, just the hole around it! I think the hole surrounding the power port was inadvertently drilled using a larger diameter drill bit. As it is, the rubber power port cover dangles loosely on the iKAMAND even when plugged into the power port.

The power connector also suffers quality assurance issue. There are times where the power plug is plugged in but the iKAMAND did not power up. Only when I jiggle the power plug, rotate it or plug it partially into the power jack does the iKAMAND power up. This means the insertion detection plate inside female barrel power jack is too far and not making sufficient contact with the male power plug, the male power plug is faulty and not making contact with the female barrel jack OR both. This is a repeatable issue, not a random occurrence and here are photos of what I am referring to:

Power plug partially plugged it, iKAMAND powered on.

Power plug partially plugged in, iKAMAND powered on.

Power plug plugged all the way into socket, iKAMAND not receiving power.

Power plug plugged completely into socket, iKAMAND not receiving power.

I also learned that the power plug is pretty sensitive. Even the slightest bump or opening and closing the lower vent with the iKAMAND attached could cause the power to disconnect. I can also see how this can be a problem during high wind conditions. The sensitivity nature of the power plug gives rise to the suspicion that the insertion detection plate inside the female barrel power jack is too far from the center.

So if you are experiencing power related issues with your iKAMAND, check the connectivity of the power plug.

Call me a perfectionist, but there are bits of untrimmed plastic left by its plastic mold still visible along the damper vent on the iKAMAND. A quality inspected product would have these residual plastic trims filed down or it would not pass quality control. If I buy a new laptop computer or gaming console, I do not expect to see uneven bevels on the trim.

Jagged edges from untrimmed plastic mold.

Jagged edges from untrimmed plastic mold.

The rectangular plastic strip that comprise of the WiFi LED transparent cutout and rubber temperature probe port cover feels flimsy and peelable, as if it was glued onto the body of the iKAMAND unit. I feel that if I yank at it hard enough from the edge, the whole plastic strip would pull right off from the body.

Flimsy looking adhesive plastic probe cover.

Flimsy looking adhesive plastic probe cover.

Users have also experienced the plastic on the iKAMAND vent cover warping during shut down after a high heat searing or cooking session. This oversight is inexcusable for a temperature control accessory designed for a charcoal grill. The following images were taken by a “Kamado Joe Grilling, Smoking and More” Facebook group member, Christopher Williams:

Williams, C. (2018, June 16). IKamand block plate with plastic melts at high temperature [Digital image]. Retrieved June 26, 2018, from https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1765708060145518&set=pcb.1477463389049223&type=3&theater&ifg=1

Williams, C. (2018, June 16). IKamand block plate with plastic melts at high temperature [Digital image]. Retrieved June 26, 2018, from https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1765708060145518&set=pcb.1477463389049223&type=3&theater&ifg=1

Williams, C. (2018, June 16). IKamand block plate with plastic melts at high temperature [Digital image]. Retrieved June 26, 2018, from https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1765708143478843&set=pcb.1477463389049223&type=3&theater&ifg=1

Williams, C. (2018, June 16). IKamand block plate with plastic melts at high temperature [Digital image]. Retrieved June 26, 2018, from https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1765708143478843&set=pcb.1477463389049223&type=3&theater&ifg=1

The thing that gets to me, after reading many users with iKAMAND issues, is that the quality problems are not consistent. Meaning one user may receive an iKAMAND dead on arrival while another may receive a 100% perfectly working unit. Another user may experience power plug issue while others do not. These inconsistencies suggest the challenges in the assembly process were not hammered out in the final manufacturing system. Otherwise, everyone should be receiving units that are working with minimal issues, or received units with identical problems.

Which then asks the question:

“Were production models individually hand assembled on an assembly line?”

I would believe so, and due to the reported inconsistencies, probably by assemblers with varying degree of training.

Short Power Cord

This is more of a minor annoyance than a “bad.” At a mere 5-ft (152.4 cm), the power cord is far too short. This means you’ll need to run an outdoor extension cord to power up the iKAMAND. I had to run a 15-ft extension cord from inside the house, under a cable concealer / protector and through the patio and then into a SockitBox to feed power to the iKAMAND:

A 10-ft power cord can at least reach an outdoor power outlet, if your house is equipped with one, without the aid of an extension cord.

Sluggish App After An Extended Period of Time

I am using an iPhone 8 with the latest iOS installed and I’ve seen a noticeable slow down of the iKAMAND app after a long low and slow session. The app becomes very sluggish and it takes longer to transition from the pit temperature to the meat probe temperature screen, or it becomes unresponsive for several seconds at times. This happens at around after the 10 hour mark. I suspect the real time updates from the graph is memory intensive, bogging down overall performance. Maybe there is a better way to display the graphs instead of relying strictly on real-time memory usage.

Clunky Setup

You’ll either be pulling your hairs out or have your iKAMAND set up and running in 4 minutes top (like myself) during setup. It really depends on two things: how technically inclined you are and the router you are using for your home’s wireless network.

If you’ve installed any smart security cameras or doorbell cameras, smart thermostats, 360º phone cameras, DJI Phantom drone or even older IP cameras, then you should know the gist of connecting to these devices. Eliminating the built-in ad-hoc wireless connection step from the iKAMAND setup procedure and having a built-in Bluetooth connection enabled strictly for the setup process in its place should greatly eliminate this one vast setup confusion. Not all Kamado Joe users are tech savvy folks and an easier iKAMAND setup process would appeal to a wider spectrum of the Kamado Joe user base. I believe switching to Bluetooth and eliminating the ad-hoc iKAMAND WiFi step in the setup will go a long way to alleviate a lot of confusion and frustration. Or if ad-hoc connection is insisted, redesign the setup process so it is automatic. This way, the user does not have to switch back and forth between WiFi – like my Frigidaire Gallery 12,000 BTU Cool Connect portable air conditioner.

I am using the Nest Hello doorbell camera set process as an example here. Upon set up, the Nest app looks for the camera via Bluetooth and connects to the device. Once connected, you are prompted to enter your WiFi network to establish a permanent WiFi connection to the camera. The 2.4 gHz and 5.0 gHz compatibility of the Nest Hello makes set up a breeze, which brings up another major problem with the iKAMAND installation.

Making you enter the SSID of your WiFi network during the final step of the set up process is also just dumb when a list of available WiFi network can easily be generated! Unless, your SSID is hidden, of course.

iKAMAND setup

Only Supports 2.4 gHz Band WiFi Networks

iKAMAND requires a 2.4 gHz band compatible WiFi network. No where is this important prerequisite mentioned prior or upon its release, so a rush of Joe fans pre-ordered the iKAMAND in droves, not knowing if it is compatible with their WiFi. We only discovered this quintessential requirement during step 3 of 3 in the iKAMAND setup procedure and in the Facebook Kamado Joe group from posts by users who were experiencing problems during setup! It is 2018, Desora. I feel the iKAMAND is still utilizing archaic set-up process and limiting its user base to folks who have dual band WiFi router or older 2.4 gHz single-band routers. I am willing to wager that a majority of the users cannot distinguish the difference between 2.4 gHz from 5.0 gHz nor do they even care. I am not sure if this was done intentionally for manufacturing cost efficiency but it sure is annoying for those who received the short end of the stick. Those using an incompatible router are faced with a crossroad: return the iKAMAND or upgrade their router. If the latter is chosen, the total cost of owning the iKAMAND is now $300-$500 and we haven’t gone over “the Ugly,” yet.

Lackluster Documentation

The iKAMAND user manual is in the form of a tri-fold double side printed pamphlet. Now the form doesn’t matter as long as it contains useful information. In this case, the iKAMAND documentation is minimalist and lackluster.

While it contains a succinct list of iKAMAND cooking modes and how to activate them, and LED read-outs, it isn’t the most user friendly and I feel that those who are not gadget geeks (like myself) may find this user manual frustrating to use.

By the way, no where in the user manual does it provide installation instructions. I suppose the  iKAMAND design team assumed its users should be able to intuitively figure it out?

Limited Online Support

Unless you are part of the Kamado Joe user group on Facebook, or a customer of the Atlanta Grill Company, or if you are subscribed to John Setzler’s Kamado Joe YouTube cooking channel, or a participant/reader of the Kamado Guru discussion forum or even reading this blog, you will probably not hear about the iKAMAND’s recent soft release. The iKAMAND is currently and exclusively sold through the Atlanta Grill Company. No words of it on the official Kamado Joe web site or social media channels unless you manually navigate to the iKAMAND product page. The only official online support available for the iKAMAND is the online Knowledge Base.

The Ugly

So now we’ve addressed the good and the bad, let us take a look at the ugly and see how Kamado Joe can shine by addressing these issues.

Are you listening, Desora?

Kamado Joe?

Cloud-Only Control

I think the single biggest issue most iKAMAND users have, including myself, with the iKAMAND is the nature of its cloud-only control. That means that not only does the iKAMAND require a specific 2.4 gHz band WiFi network access, we also have to rely on the Desora / iKAMAND cloud servers’ up-time to reliably use the iKAMAND to its full potential. What happens if the Desora / iKAMAND servers are overloaded by too many users or experiences a DoS attack? Well, we are pretty SOL to say the least. I’ve experienced this first hand on my first 18 hour overnight low and slow.

Desora / iKAMAND brief server issue during the last 2 hours of an 18-hour low and slow.

Desora / iKAMAND brief server issue during the last 2 hours of an 18-hour low and slow.

During the Desora / iKAMAND server outage, the iKAMAND was incommunicado and unresponsive.

During the Desora / iKAMAND server outage, the iKAMAND was incommunicado and unresponsive.

I only realized it was a server issue when I tried logging out and logging back into my iKAMAND user account, deleting and re-installing the iKAMAND app to no avail. During the temporary outage, I was not able to stop an ongoing cook nor start a new cook. Closing, deleting and even re-installing the app really did nothing. I signed back in only to see the iKAMAND picked up where it left off, and that was the stalled out cook session.

The iKAMAND became unresponsive due to Desora / iKAMAND server issues and I could not use the iKAMAND to control the temperature or even stop the cook towards the last two hours of the low and slow! The app was interfacing with the iKAMAND, but the Desora / iKAMAND experienced server-client failure over the cloud and was unable to send or receive commands. The problem resolved itself about 2 hours later after the server issues were rectified at Desora’s end and the iKAMAND functioned as it should again but I had to manually control the fire during the time being. For a $250 unit, peace of mind should be an intrinsic feature.

If these outages are planned, such as for back up or upgrades to improve performance, an in-app notification from iKAMAND would be nice.

Even something as simple as getting a temperature read-out from the iKAMAND is done so through the cloud! If the Desora / iKAMAND cloud servers are experiencing an outage, we can’t even get a temperature read-out from the probe(s), let alone control the pit temperature!

What Desora should do as a better alternative is deploy a localized WiFi control while using the cloud for out of network control, store cook history, i.e. the blog entries, and issue OTA firmware updates. That way, an inadvertent server situation doesn’t always result in an interrupted cook. If Desora ever goes out of business and the iKAMAND servers are not kept online, the iKAMAND is pretty much a $250 brick.

My Philips Hue smart light hub setup that controls 30 some odd Philips Hue LED lights in our house works exactly this way. If I am connected to my home network, the Hue app will control the lights locally, through the WAN.

Philips Hue app when using local WiFI network to control hub.

Philips Hue app when using local WiFI network to control hub.

If I am away from my home network, then it activates “Away from home” control and communicates with the Philips cloud service to remotely control our lights.

Philips Hue app in cloud control mode.

Philips Hue app in cloud control mode.

My ecobee3 smart thermostat works exactly the same way, and so do our Nest cameras. There is absolutely no reason why iKAMAND cannot be versatile and work with and around the customer’s location.

Does Not Reconnect to WiFi After Router Reboot

If you ever need to reboot your router during a cook, the iKAMAND does not automatically attempt to reconnect. Expect to see a solid teal color on the iKAMAND after a router reboot.

Over Ambitious. Over Promised. Under Delivered.

Here’s a screenshot of features that were suppose to make it into the production model iKAMAND, dated December 28, 2017, straight from the owner of Kamado Joe himself:

“Quick update on iKamand. We will be releasing in late January. While the device has not changed in design we made the decision to add a number of significant enhancements to the APP. The APP will now include a featured recipe every day and a social media feed that incorporates all our postings on social platforms as well as selected other content. We would like to provide the user with a very visual and intuitive experience and we want the APP to be a source of inspiration for Joe users worldwide. We have also added a predictive cooking time feature that will use a regression type analysis of all the data of all the brisket cooks (for example) to estimate when your cook will be complete. If we have data on 10,000 brisket cooks we should be able to provide good estimates on cooking times. Nobody has taken this approach before but we are looking for creative ways to add value to the overall experience. We are also incorporating an easy share feature for users to post their cook on their social platforms of choice simultaneously. We have also incorporated text messaging where the APP will send you texts alerting you on the progress of your cook etc. We like our product design but in our opinion the real magic is in the APP. The bad news is that we will have to increase the product cost to $249 to allow for 1) increased data costs per user over the lifetime and 2) ongoing development and creative costs. Including some new screenshots of the APP. It’s not just a temp controller anymore. Apologies for delay in posting an update.”

The iKAMAND was officially delivered to customers around the first week of June. This means that Desora and Kamado Joe had a good six months to work on and improve on the app. That did not happen. None of the these features made it into the iKAMAND app as detailed by Bobby Brennan, even as late as July 12th, 2018:

  • Daily featured recipe
  • Daily social media feed
  • Predictive cooking time feature
  • Social media sharing

Fantastic ideas, absolutely atrocious execution. Over promised and under delivered.

By the way, as of this writing, the Apple App Store is still showing screenshots of the pre-released beta app.

Dumb WiFi SSID and Password Requirements

So you are able to connect to the iKAMAND’s ad-hoc network during step one of the set up procedure, but you are unable to configure the iKAMAND to connect to your 2.4 gHz compatible WiFi network in step two. What could go wrong? The problem may be that the length of your WiFi’s SSID contains too many characters. It cannot be too long, it cannot have spaces and it cannot have special characters (e.g., #_’$@!). Same thing applies to your WiFi’s password. That means, you’ll need to change your WiFi’s SSID and password setting just to cater to one device! Imagine you have 20+ devices connected, which is not uncommon this day and age. Absolutely ridiculous. What were the developers thinking?

Valid Characters Requirement

Like the “Dumb WiFi SSID and Password Requirements” stated above, the Cook history blog entries cannot contain special characters. Not even an apostrophe! What?!

But exclamation points are okay. Here’s a screenshot of the iKAMAND food entry / blog feature taken from the pre-released beta version of the app. It actually looks much cleaner than the officially released app. And special characters are not an issue!

Pre-released beta version of the app looked better than the version in the app store.

Missing Web Interface

While the iOS app does a decent job in itself, an added web interface where you can log in from a browser on a desktop computer to control and view cook history / blog entries would be great. ecobee smart thermostat, Nest and Philips Hue all have this added value feature. ecobee smart thermostat even allows its users to export data in CSV format. A similar feature added to the iKAMAND would be a very nice touch.

Missing Additional Probes on Launch

Really Kamado Joe? Besides a soft launch after months of delay, ridicule and fanfare, no additional probes are available to purchase? At the time of launch, the additional temperature probes were not available for sale, which I feel is just outright dumb. Some folks cook multiple meat simultaneously. Releasing just one temperature probe, the one that is included in the iKAMAND, just doesn’t make any sense.

Missing Social Media Share Feature

Joe fans enjoy discussing their cooks and share ideas, whether its their first time embarking on a brisket, or their 20th time smoking baby back ribs, there is always something new to learn from each other. A feature to share the temperature monitoring graph or “recent cooks” blog entry through social media would be a nice-to-have feature. Such a feature will allow other Joe fans to identify why certain cooks went one or way or another, why temperature spiked at certain time, etc. At the moment, members of the Kamado Joe Facebook group are taking screenshots of their iKAMAND app to share this information.

Missing Pinch / Zoom Temperature Graph

Another great feature to have is the ability to pinch and zoom the temperature monitoring graph. The longer your cook, the more compact the x-axis becomes, subsequently breaking into 5 hour intervals. The ability to view the temperature as it correlates to time in a list format is also a nice-to-have feature for us data nerds.

Missing Ability to Calibrate Temperature Probes

Some of us need to calibrate our Kamado Joe dome thermometer for accuracy. We do this by means of the boiling water test and we can adjust the temperature accordingly using a Flathead screwdriver. What if we need to calibrate the probe thermometers? At the moment, there is no way to do so. A software update by Desora can fix this. A software probe temperature offset input field can be added into the iKAMAND app so that iKAMAND users can calibrate their probe(s) by software.

Missing Thermometer-Only Mode

I am surprised that this feature was not included upon launch. Sometimes I would like to use the iKAMAND strictly as a thermometer. The closest way to get to this feature is to tap the BBQ icon, then SKIP food selection and finally entering a pit temperature. However, enter a desired pit temperature higher than the ambient pit temperature and the fan will activate. Enter a low temperature will keep the fan at bay but you’ll be bombarded with annoying notification indicating the temperature has dropped significantly and to open your vents.

A viable option would be to add a “Temperature” icon on the home screen, next to the Home, BBQ and Grill icons.

Closing Thoughts

Did the iKAMAND live up to the hype and expectations? Yes and no. In my personal opinion, when it works uninterrupted, it works like a charm and I love it. However, the end product feels rushed and is evident in the craftsmanship and build quality of the first generation product only to be exacerbated by the sporadic Desora / iKAMAND outages that render the product temporarily useless.

In worst case scenarios, customers outright received iKAMAND units that were dead on arrival or experience consecutive dropped network errors. A technology product that costs $250 and two years in development should not be experiencing all these quirks and pitfalls, despite being a first generation product. The unavailability of additional temperature probes on launch is equally laughable and inexcusable.

Fanning the flame is the rigmarole that is the setup process to get the iKAMAND connected and working. Limiting the WiFi network compatibility to only 2.4 gHz band significantly reduces the user base as well as adds another layer of confusion and frustration to the setup procedure.

And making matter worse is the owner of Kamado Joe, Bobby Brennan, is absolutely no where to be found. No PR crisis, no solutions offered, not a blip. Between 2017 and 2018, leading up to the release of the iKAMAND, Brennan was actively involved on Facebook (just join the Kamado Joe Facebook group and search for “Bobby Brennan”), touting new 2018 products, prototypes, teasing the group with photos and CAD drawings of iKAMAND as it evolves through different level of changes.

In an age where 3-D printed fast prototyping (in-house or outsourced) reduces design time, parts and costs in the engineering process, Joe fans should expect the iKAMAND to be no less than a superior product. Unfortunately, at the moment it is an inconsistent product and I am disappointed to say that the pitfalls actually outweigh the positives. The question now is:

“How did the aforementioned pitfalls slip past the months of closed beta testing by the select pool of power users and ultimately made it into the production model?”

I believe a majority of the “beta testers” were not beta testers in the true sense of the word, just regular BBQ enthusiasts and end users like you and I. The street cred to be chosen as a power user is probably predicated by post counts and not the actual ability to systematically test and document products or software. Otherwise, the aforementioned list of issues would’ve been documented and investigated by Kamado Joe, allowing them to rectify prior to mass manufacturing production units.

Also a pool of 20~30 some odd power users selected to test does NOT represent an accurate user pool, especially if Desora / Kamado Joe plans to sell hundred if not thousands of unit upon launch. You cannot realistically get a real world server usage model merely from 30 power users using their iKAMAND units at random time to represent the hundred or even thousands of iKAMAND running simultaneously in the real world.

The only other possibility is Kamado Joe / Desora did not heed to the quality reports and pushed through with production.

So what allure drove Joe fans to pre-order a partially finished product? It is likely the iKAMAND’s months of social medial teasing (by power users and Kamado Joe owner) and hyping followed by months of delay, seemingly perpetual beta status, fierce Kamado Joe brand loyalty (after all, if it is a Kamado Joe product designed for your Kamado Joe ceramic grill, what could go wrong?), and last but not least, the herd mentality to acquire the latest and most coveted Kamado Joe gadget before anyone else in the neighborhood.

In my opinion, I recommend waiting until subsequent iteration(s) addresses the aforementioned list of bads and uglies. On the mean time, if you are dead set on getting your hands on a smart BBQ temperature controller, there are other tried-and-true alternatives to explore, such as CyberQFire Board, Flame Boss, Smobot and Smart Fire.

If you are still determined to get your hands on an iKAMAND smart temperature controller after reading my thoughts and impressions and try your luck, you can order one from the Atlanta Grill Company (be sure you order for the correct application, Classic Joe or Big Joe).

For those of us that own a functional iKAMAND, let’s hope that the Desora / iKAMAND cloud servers are kept in tip-top shape so we can continue to enjoy set-it-and-forget-it low and slow barbecue and that future firmware and app updates address the problems experienced by us early adopters. So far, I consider myself one of the lucky few and my iKAMAND unit has been working flawlessly, minus the power plug quality control problem and cloud server outages.

On the mean time, smoke on and smoke meat all day, everyday!

Do you own a Kamado Joe iKAMAND smart temperature controller? Are you experiencing any operational issues? How are you using it and how well is it performing for you? Share your experience in the comment section below.

16 thoughts on “iKAMAND by Kamado Joe First Impressions; Thoughts and Review

  1. Jeremy

    I went into the purchase of mine with my eyes wide open, but they had a great price break on Amazon ($149) so I thought I’d pull the trigger. First thing it did was 1 (maybe 2) firmware upgrades. I’ve got a strong wifi signal and had no connection issues, even during a 16 hour cook. I was really impressed with the predictive fan behavior and the accuracy of this thing. Sadly, when I pulled it out for the third cook the fan just wouldn’t kick on. I will now get to see if Kamado Joe customer service is up to snuff.

    1. 5teve-0 Post author

      Hi Jeremy, sorry to hear about your experience. The 1st gen iKamand is really hit or miss in terms of reliability. Mine is still work 100%. I recommend following up on Kamado Joe if you’re going the warranty route and if you don’t get an update for a period of time. I filed a warranty claim for the Kontrol Tower dripping paint issue, was informed I would get a replacement in 3 weeks, heard nothing for 5 weeks, contacted KJ, was promised I would get it in 2 weeks, 2 weeks passed, contacted KJ again, a new order for the Kontrol Tower was entered, was promised a tracking number but was never given one. Then finally, my FedEx informed delivery notified me that a package from KJ was on its way – 2 months after filing the initial claim that was originally promised 3 weeks. Right now, I’m on the fence with KJ customer service. I feel like I was given the run around for a $60 top vent over a $1,200 grill.

  2. Mario Arb

    What ever you do Do NOT BUY this POS, you will be disappointed.
    One long BBQ (Brisket) at 170F and the fan died the power supply died.
    this is a toy don’t trust your cooking to this thing!!!!!!!

  3. Peter

    Great review, you have convinced me to wait until they sort out the problems. The biggest issue for me would be the cloud based communication. Thanks.

  4. Anonymous

    mine has worked good at times but today after about 4 hours the meat temp droped from 180 to 32 as you discribed many paragraghs ago also i lost connection once and yes i agree with the 2.4 gig conection that i had to switch my phone to to make it work and i hate that i can’t get another meat probe ive been searching for one now i know they are not offering one even though there 3 plugs. also i thought mine waas dead today no light nothing mins later it came back on

    1. 5teve-0 Post author

      The gen 1 iKamand is way too inconsistent between units. Which is why I will never recommend it to Joe fans when other proven controllers are available, even though my personal units survived all the abuse I’ve thrown at it. My personal opinion is if you have a working iKamand, cook on. If not, wait for gen 2. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. WB

    I was super excited about the IKamand, Bought one and now regret it. Worked great for the first month now it no longer connects to the wifi network. I have spent several hours trying to get it back working. I am a seasoned IT technical professional and run a enterprise class Ubiquity mesh network in my home. I found this review in my search for help and answers.

    Kamado Joe is going to RMA and replace my unit. I hope that the new one will be a better experience.

    1. 5teve-0 Post author

      Kamado Joe is planning to release a gen 2 product by the end of the year, which is great news. Although I’d rather that they delayed the release of the gen 1 product and squashed all the bugs. It is definitely a rushed product and KJ acknowledges that it fell short for some users. If you are continuing to experience issues with your gen 1 product, they are willing to exchange the problematic product for a gen 2 product at no cost. The new gen 2 product has several upgrades, such as improved antenna, improved material and a trap door that blocks the fan when it is not in motion to keep heat from the Joe from entering and overheating the electronics. Awesome.

  6. Anonymous

    Big thanks for this review 🙂
    Kamado/Desora should hired you… and BBQ community will benefits from it 🙂

    1. 5teve-0 Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Kamado Joe’s owner Bobby has announced a gen 2 iKAMAND to be released within 12 weeks as of this writing. I’ll get my hands on one and review it as well. It’s suppose to address most of the problems identified by gen 1 iKAMAND users and improved quality assurance to ensure that blemishes like the one I’ve pointed out are not repeated.

  7. Karl Krasnowsky

    Wow, what an intensive review. I just heard of this product during a youtube cooking session and did a quick search… and here’s about all I need to know!
    I was considering a CYBERQ kit. Was wondering if you might have done any comparison shopping between these two?

    1. 5teve-0 Post author

      Thanks Karl for the comment, I did a follow up one month update in a recent entry. Still doesn’t change my mind on not recommending it until Kamado Joe addresses the issues reported in this review and in the KJ Facebook user group. I do not have a CyberQ controller, but many in the Facebook group do and raved about it. I recommend taking a look at this thread: https://www.facebook.com/groups/500015733460665/permalink/1502428693219359/ ( you need to be a member of the group to see it ).

    1. 5teve-0 Post author

      Yup, I’ve addressed that in the post. I don’t mind the iKAMAND lacking a display as long as it can be controlled through the app locally without connecting to the Desora servers as a prerequisite for operation. We (as in iKAMAND users) are crossing our fingers that a future firmware upgrade will enable local control. I know Desora is reading this.

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