Moto z with livermorium's keyboard mod attached

After securing almost $170,000 in funding for its Keyboard Mod, UK-based startup Livermorium just threw in the towel.

The company canceled the QWERTY keyboard add-on for the Moto Z series, citing mounting technical and financial difficulties. However, Livermorium vowed to keep the QWERTY dream alive, announcing plans to launch its own keyboard-equipped smartphone, codenamed the Q-device.

Livermorium burst into the Mod scene in March 2017, with a successful Indiegogo campaign that raised 115 percent of its target. The Keyboard Mod was supposed to turn Moto Z devices into five-row landscape QWERTY sliders, in the vein of the old Motorola Backflip. The successful Indiegogo campaign caught the eye of Motorola, which featured it in its “Transform the Smartphone Challenge” and showcased the product during CES 2018.

The $99 Mod was supposed to ship to backers earlier this year, but, following repeated delays, Livermorium announced this week that it’s pulling the plug on it.

Livermorium cited a variety of problems to justify the project’s cancelation. Some of them, like a dearth of critical components, were outside of the startup’s control. But Livermorium also cited issues that are inherent to the product and should’ve been caught very early in the design process. For instance, the Keyboard Mod would have been too thick and heavy, even if the device was made of plastic, instead of the premium materials Livermorium initially promised.

The Keyboard Mod would have been too thick and heavy, even if the device was made of plastic, instead of the premium materials

The startup also justified the cancelation by stating that the Moto Z is “extremely unpopular in most places.” In other words, Motorola doesn’t sell enough Moto Z phones to give Livermorium a decent addressable market. Again, this kind of issue should have been caught before taking any money from customers.

Livermorium said it already spent all the funds it secured from Indiegogo, but offered full refunds to all backers who request it. Instead of a refund, backers can also choose to get a discount on the upcoming Q-device, a slider smartphone that Livermorium aims to release by the end of the year.

Without offering details, Livermorium claimed the Q-device would be a massive improvement over the Moto Z + Keyboard Mod combo. Not only it would be thinner and lighter, it would also have superior specs and much better usability.

Livermorium did not reveal how it would fund the development of Q-device, but the phone would not be crowdfunded. That’s probably for the best, seeing the problems the company faced trying to launch a much simpler keyboard attachment.

The failed Keyboard Mod is another cautionary example of the dangers of backing hardware projects from unproven companies. Even when the company has the best intentions – and there’s no indication that Livermorium has been anything but honest – bringing a complex piece of technology to market can be very challenging. It’s also further proof that Motorola’s big bet on Moto Mods has failed to live up to expectations. Two years in, customers just don’t seem to care.

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