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ZTE admits error in expecting people to fund its mid-tier crowdsourced phone

Remember last week when I said ZTE’s crowdsourced Hawkeye phone had already had “quite the journey?” Well turns out its journey wasn’t anywhere near an end. After officially launching its eye-tracking, sticky phone on Kickstarter earlier this month and then later unveiling the device’s midrange specs, Jeff Yee, VP of planning and partnerships at ZTE, pulled a “my bad.” In a post this weekend, Yee explains that given that the phone has raised less than $35,000 of its $500,000 goal, the company didn’t make the best decision in turning its crowdsourced phone idea into a midrange Android device.

“We realize that our decision to introduce the CSX hands-free features on a mid-range device may not have met the expectations of those that backed this project and those that are early adopters and discovering Project CSX through Kickstarter,” he writes. “It was our mistake.”

Apparently users wanted a top-tier Android device with the best Snapdragon processor that could also track their eyes and stick to anything. (The phone is currently set to launch with the Snapdragon 625.) Yee says ZTE opted for the disappointing specs because it wanted Hawkeye to be a global device that could “reach masses around the world.” It needed to be affordable. The phone costs $199 on Kickstarter, but that price was expected to rise after its campaign ended.

Now ZTE faces a new problem: the specs and phone can change but the price cannot. The company says this is the case because an “introductory price” has already been set and backers have already pledged money for the phone. ZTE wants to upgrade its phone but it has to keep its costs the same. The whole situation truly is a mess.

So in the face of this dilemma, ZTE is — you guessed it — crowdsourcing solutions from its users. People can vote in a poll for the feature they would most like to see changed in order to make the device more enticing. So far, it seems people mostly just want a better processor. Wow, what a launch.

At this point, ZTE should probably just release two versions of the phone. Or maybe it should abandon its Kickstarter and start over again without the crowdfunding aspect? The campaign is an “all or nothing” anyway, meaning ZTE doesn’t get any money if the campaign doesn’t earn $500,000 by February 18th, which definitely isn’t going to happen.


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