A Look Inside Relay: The Design Journey

Last time, we went over some of Relay’s basic features. Now we’d like to tell the story behind them. When designing Relay, our team wanted to create something simple, durable, and elegant. Creating a super-simple interface for a complicated device takes experimentation and dedication. The team went through a few prototypes before they achieved the perfect Relay design. Today I want to share that process with you.

If you take a look at our early design (the one on the left) you might recognize our first prototype as Relay’s distant cousin. Old models were about the same size as our current Relay at just under three inches tall. They were also screenless and worked like walkie-talkies. But they had a few key differences that separate a good device from an awesome one.

Heavy-duty design

As Relay’s design evolved, durability was a top priority. We needed Relay to stand up to drops, splashes, and heavy use. Here are some of the improvements we made.

We gave it some armor

  • Our old design had squared corners. When we rounded them out, Relay held up better to drops and falls.

  • The prototype had a cut-out corner for a keychain or lanyard. While convenient, that cutout was likely to crack with heavy use or if dropped. We decided to go with a more solid design for durability and to make room for more tech inside Relay.

We added splash guards

  • In early designs, Relay’s speaker was covered by a sheet of fabric mesh. It was good for acoustics, but not for water resistance. We replaced that speaker fabric with a sturdier protective casing.

  • Nothing wrecks a device faster than water in the charging port. With that (and a few other technical reasons) in mind, we replaced the micro-USB port with a magnetic charging system.

Intuitive interface

After testing our prototypes in-house and with our children, we realized that you shouldn’t need a thick manual to understand how to use Relay. So we made some changes that made it easier to use.

Bigger better buttons

  • The push-to-talk button used to be located on an indented corner of the device (it’s on the top-right corner in the illustration above.) It may seem obvious in the drawing, but when I first held the prototype, I ended up turning it in my hands trying to find the right button. So we moved it to the front, right in the middle. And we tripled the size.

  • The volume buttons were originally on the front of the device on top of the speaker. We moved those to the edge of Relay with a clear volume icon for easy use.

Lights that tell a story

  • In our original designs, Relay had a single LED light underneath the speaker fabric that would light up when you or someone else was talking. Because Relay has no screen, we thought these lights should be more communicative.

  • The new LEDs form a ring around the push-to-talk button. The ring fills up as you increase the volume or as Relay charges. It turns different colors depending on what Relay is doing (talking, listening, etc.)

As we move into the final stages of getting Relay ready for play, we have five colors to choose from Blueberry, Mint, Brick, Charcoal, and White. Charcoal is new, and we recently made the Brick color redder so it would pop more.

Relay is getting closer to launch by the day! What Relay design features interest you the most, and is there anything you want to know more about? We want to answer as many of your questions as we can so you know what it is and how it works. Next time we’ll get into the tech underneath the casing.

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Would you tell us more about the magnetic charger. Does it connect to the power source via a micro USB port, and will we be able to use current chargers to connect including in vehicles?


Great question, @grandbobby! You are correct, the Relay charger connects magnetically on the Relay end and the other end is a USB. You can plug it into a wall adapter, a car charger, etc. The wall adapter will come as part of the package.


Battery life projections (how long can we go between charges with typical use)?


You have provided a lot of very useful information about this neat product. Do you have some information on the companion app that installs on a cell phone, PC or both?


Thanks for asking, @cbwahlstrom! You can expect 2 days’ charge.


That’s a great question @billg! I’m glad you’re enjoying the series. I’ll be publishing a post next week all about the companion app and I’m excited to share that with you all.


a quick follow question
are you going to have USB Type A and Type C option or are we going to need an adapter for Type C USB connector?


Good question @drm186! The side of the charging cable that attaches to Relay is a custom magnetic charger. The side that attaches to your wall adapter/car charger or other power adapter is a USB-A, like the wall-end of most charging cables.


Is there a headset jack and/or bluetooth capability?
If so, will it support at least push-to-talk from the headset?

This would make it ideal for use on a bicycle or motorcycle, and probably improve usability while jogging and hiking.

EDIT: I see in the other article:

Headphone jack, Bluetooth, and NFC

  • Because speakerphone isn’t always your first choice.

But that still leaves the question of headset PTT and mic support.


Thanks for raising that question, @homelessonwheels! It looks like our Relay community manager answered this question for you in the Relay Neighborhood (no longer available.)

Here’s what she said for anyone who might be wondering the same thing!

Message an
Expert customer