ZTE withdraws Hawkeye smartphone funding campaign

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 February, 2017, 3:49pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 February, 2017, 10:49pm

Chinese telecommunications and smartphone maker ZTE on Friday scrapped its Kickstarter campaign for its first crowdsourced smartphone Hawkeye following underwhelming response from backers on the crowdfunding platform.

Marketed as a smartphone with novel eye-tracking features and a self-adhesive back, the idea for the Hawkeye was selected from a pool of entries submitted from the company’s fans to ZTE’s Project Crowdsource X (CSX) initiative.

However, the crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter attracted only US$36,245 in funds after six weeks, falling short of the US$500,000 goal. ZTE pulled the plug on the campaign, effectively cancelling preorders, a day before it was due to end, citing feedback from fans and users who were unhappy with the mid-range specifications of the device.

“Project CSX has always been about going against the norm and trying something different. But above all, it’s been about listening to you, the consumer,” ZTE wrote in a post to its campaign backers.

“Based on the feedback we’ve received on both Kickstarter and our own Z-Community forum, we’ve decided to phase out this campaign; however, this doesn’t mean the project is over. We are revaluating the device for the winning Project CSX idea - an eye-tracking feature with self adhesive backing - and it will be implemented based on your feedback.”

The Hawkeye smartphone was launched for pre-orders on Kickstarter in early January. Released at a discounted price of US$199, the 5.5-inch phone was marketed to have features such as an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 3 GB RAM and 32 GB of storage, on top of the eye-tracking feature that allows users to scroll on the device through eye movement detection.

However, potential buyers and ZTE’s fans were unhappy about the mid-range specifications, in particular the company’s choice of processor, the amount of RAM, and the 3,000 mAh battery. Some fans expressed that the specifications of the Hawkeye would be outdated by the time the phone ships in September.

In late January, the company apologised to its followers for the underwhelming specifications of the Hawkeye, stating in a blog post that it was the company’s “mistake”.

“After posting the project on Kickstarter and then releasing the detailed specifications of Hawkeye, we realise 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,” ZTE wrote.

It then conducted a poll to ask users what they would like to see changed in the Hawkwye. Forty-seven per cent of respondents to ZTE’s poll said that they would prefer to have the Snapdragon 625 processor upgraded to the Snapdragon 835, with a flurry of comments requesting at least 4GB RAM and a larger, 3,400 mAh battery.