Are Kickstarter phone deals worth it?

Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGogo often advertise new and exciting phones that promise the world at a reasonable price. Are they worth it?
kickstarter

Why Should I consider funding a phone on Kickstarter?

Crowdfunding is an opportunity for small manufacturers and designers to develop and sell products that might not be suitable for every phone shop on every high street. If you fancy something a little out of the ordinary, or you have very specific requirements like security or simplicity then KickStarter or IndieGogo might have what you are looking for.

Why Shouldn’t I buy a phone using crowdfunding?

As you can see from the examples above, a lot of the phones are built around the idea that everyone else is doing it wrong. They introduce alternate software, different screens or radical new features that most peile don’t want or need.

If you are looking for a normal phone with mainstream features then crowdfunding platforms are not the best place to look. if you need the rock-solid reliability and refinement of an Apple or a Samsung, then you need to buy an Apple or Samsung.

So you don’t recommend it?

If it sounds like we are being unnecessarily hard on crowdfunded phones, we don’t mean to be, but it is important to sound a note of caution. For most phone users we think there are better, safer ways to get a new phone.

More Smartphone projects fail than are shipped, and the delays experienced by most crowdfunding campaigns mean it may be out of date by the time it arrives.

As an alternative to purchasing a phone from a high street or online retailer we don’t recommend Kickstarter, IndieGogo or any other crowdfunding platform.

What phones can I get on Kickstarter?

Here is a selection of current and previous smartphone crowdfunding campaigns.

Teracube Phone

TeraCube

The Teracube 2e is a low-end smartphone phone that promises to come with a 4 year warranty. Performance isn't amazing, but with a low price, generous warranty and removable battery it isn't aimed at people who want the latest flagship. The 2e hit its target in Nov 2020 and it is shipping to backers now.

Clearphone

Clear Phone

ClearOS is an ambitious project to create a powerful smartphone with powered by ClearOS - a custom OS built around privacy and safety that can still run Android apps. It achieved its goal in 2019, but to date backers have not received their phones. ClearOS is already a successful Server OS, but we aren't holding our breath on this one.

Maker Phone

Maker Phone

The maker phone is a modular phone for fans of the Raspberry Pi and the maker community. It's not a particularly smart phoen, but you can turn it into anything you like, from a RC car to a games console to, erm, a different phone.

Titan Pocket

Built for people who really miss their old blackberry, the Titan Pocket is a reasonably compact tough phoen with a physical keyboard. The good news is that UniHertz have done this before - this is their 6th crowdfunding campaign and it is likely to ship on time.

Mudita Pure

Mudita Pure

"dumb", or simple phones are a common concept for crowdfunders. They aren't too complicated or expensive to make and who doesn't feel like their smartphone is taking over their life? The Mudita Pure ticks every box and it was successful campaign, raising $262k on Kickstarter. It hasn't shipped yet but they are still keeping their backers in the loop with regular updates.

Boring Phone

The Boring Phone was a minimalist smartphone that kept useful apps like GPS and navigation, but eschewed email and even web browsing. This phone is a puzzle - it thinks email is distracting, but does include a podcast feature. It clearly appealed to some people though - it met its target in 2019 and successfully shipped to backers.

Light Phone 2

Light Phone 2

The Light Phone 1 and Light phone 2 were "smart" feature phones that included a basic suite of tools with a 4G connection and an e-ink display. It promised to remove distractions and just give you the tools you need.

Peanuts Mobile

Peanuts Mobile

Peanuts Mobile was an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign to fund a modern smart phone with a restricted OS that kept users safe online. To us it looked like a generic chinese manufactured phone with a custom version of Android that removed things like the App store. This campaign wasn't successful, raising $10,000 of the required $100k.

Will I definitely get my phone?

Crowdfunding is quite risky and there is always a chance you will not receive your order. When you sponsor a product using Crowdfunding there are several risks:

  • The project may be delayed.
  • The project may be cancelled.
  • The specs and details of the product may change before it is shipped.
  • Shipping may be delayed by weeks, months or even years.

Please don’t think we are trying to put you off, but you should make sure you can afford any unexpected surprises. If you really need the phone you are ordering and can’t afford  a delay, crowdfunding might not be for you.

But I can’t afford the latest smartphone any other way!

Trust us, the phones from Crowdfunding are not the latest smartphones. By the time they are backed and shipped, they are likely to have been surpassed by a whole new generation of phones with faster processors, better cameras and larger screens. If you are looking for a great experience without breaking the bank try the OnePlus Nord, Nokia 8.3 or Xaimoi Poco Phone X3. They all cost less than £300 and are a pleasure to use.

I bet there have been some really bad experiences

Oh yes. Sadly not all crowdfunding campaigns are honest or realistic. Sometimes the creators are just a bit too ambitious, or don’t plan for unforseen circumstances, but sometimes they are just trying to attract funding without ever delivering a product.

This has happened a few times with smartphones – the Turing phone, Comet and several more. The Verge has a well written and informative article about the Dragonfly Futurefön if you’re interested.

Were you caught out? Is that’s why you are so down on Crowdfunding?

Yes, I have travelled the emotional rollercoaster with a crowdfunding campaign. It wasn’t for a phone, but it was with a related device – the Matrix PowerWatch 2.

What a great idea – a smartwatch with GPS that powers itself with body heat and solar energy. 10,000+ people pledged over £1.5 million on Indiegogo to make it possible. Sadly the reality didn’t match what we were promised. It shipped over a year late with buggy software that was not usable for many months after. 3 years after backing the project and a year and a half after receiving the watch, it still isn’t a fully usable smartwatch.

OK, show me something good on Kickstarter

Well since you asked, Kickstarter is great for content and media projects. A lot of great movies and web-series were only made possible by crowdfunding. One example is AFK – a fantasy series series with a twist. The first season was crowdfunded for just $15,000, but it’s so good you can even watch AFK on Amazon Prime. Or watch it for free on Youtube.

AFK took the sensible decision to postpone their Season 3 funding due to the Corona epidemic, but its creators promise it will be back. You can find the AFK Kickstarter campaign here.

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