ZTE scraps 'design our smartphone' crowdfunding campaign

The Chinese phone manufacturer ZTE has cancelled a crowd-funding campaign for a smartphone design based on ideas submitted by the public.

With just over a day to go, 190 backers had pledged $ 36,000 (£29,000) – much less than the target of $ 500,000.

The “Project CSX” phone would let users interact with it via voice control and eye-tracking, in which pages are scrolled by eye movement alone.

One analyst said customers may have been sceptical about the features.

In an update to the project page on Kickstarter, ZTE said it had decided to cancel the current fundraising campaign “based on feedback we’ve received”, but was vague on what exact form any new phone might now take.

“However, this doesn’t mean the project is over,” the firm added.

“We are re-evaluating 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.”

Backers had been able to pledge $ 199 to receive the phone, had the project been successfully funded, and those who pledged money will now get it back.

‘Thousands of customers’

This latest smartphone concept was previously unveiled following the submission of ideas by members of the public.

Besides offering hands-free interaction via voice control and eye-tracking, the phone would also have been usable with a special “self-adhesive” case allowing it to be stuck to walls and other vertical surfaces.

ZTE claims “thousands of customers” voted for the phone’s features.

However, Jeff Yee, vice president of technology planning and partnerships at the firm, posted a message entitled “We acknowledge our mistake” on ZTE’s community forums in January.

“When the eye-tracking, sticky phone went on to win Project CSX, we lost sight of what many of you submitted and voted upon as competing submissions,” he wrote.

“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.”

A poll on what features to change has so far received 181 responses.

“It is extraordinary because to fund the project they only need 2,500 phones sold – that is a rounding error in most phone production,” said Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight.

“It shows that something’s gone badly wrong with the campaign – it is just not appealing.”

Decent specs

Mr Wood suggested that customers may have been sceptical that the eye-tracking features would work as advertised since the concept is so new.

He pointed out, however, that the specifications of the proposed device were promising in their own right.

The proposed design boasts a full HD display, dual lens camera on the rear and eight megapixel camera on the front of the device, three gigabytes of RAM and a dual SIM card slot – one of which can be used for a MicroSD storage card.

“It’s a bit of a tragedy – even though it seems to be a failed experiment, ZTE should be applauded for their efforts,” said Mr Wood.

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BBC News – Technology