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ZTE Hawkeye in trouble: company admits mistake, asks fans for help

Its Kickstarter currently has 182 backers.

Published onJanuary 23, 2017

ZTE’s Hawkeye smartphone project is being reconsidered after an underwhelming response to it on Kickstarter. The Hawkeye would provide eye-tracking technology to allow it to be manipulated hands-free and went up for pre-order on Kickstarter for $199 at the start of the month. After the revealing the device’s specs last week, however, ZTE believes it could have misjudged the expectations of backers.

The device itself arrived from ZTE’s Project CSX contest in which the company asked for user concept submissions for a new smartphone. ZTE then selected the top five designs and put them forward to a public to vote for which they wanted to go into production, pending a successful crowdfunding campaign. The eye-tracking, hands-free winner was the Hawkeye.

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The Hawkeye isn’t faring well on Kickstarter and comments following the specs reveal haven’t been kind. It had 44 days to achieve $500,000 in orders. With 26 days to go, the total is at $34,851, not yet at 10% of what is needed for the campaign to go ahead. It has been backed by 182 people.

ZTE said it wanted the device to be affordable so that users worldwide would be able to benefit from the handset. However, in a post on the ZTE community page, ZTE’s VP of Technology Planning and Partnerships Jeff Yee had this to say:

After posting the project on Kickstarter and then releasing the detailed specifications of Hawkeye, 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. It was our mistake.

Now, the company is asking for more user feedback on changes that could be made to the device, but they are working within the confines of the already initiated Kickstarter project. That means the $199 price for the Hawkeye can’t be altered — ZTE couldn’t make it a high-end device now even if it wanted to. Instead, the options ZTE is polling consumers on, as written on the website, are:

  • Swap the Qualcomm 625 for the 835?
  • Swap the 3000 mAh Battery for a 3500 mAh?
  • The OS would be Stock Android with added software for eye tracking?

ZTE also offered people a chance to provide other suggestions, some of which are being reiterated in the comments and are laughable.

So far, 96 people have taken the poll in four days — or to look at it another way, more than half of the total number of people who have backed the project.

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I don’t want to be a naysayer, particularly when I see a manufacturer make an earnest attempt to both please fans and deliver something innovative, but I doubt an extra 500 mAh of battery capacity is going to radically change the situation for ZTE at this point.

To back the project, visit the Kickstarter page here and to cast your vote for what needs to change at the relevant ZTE community page.

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